Stoke City v CHELSEA: Preview

Date: Saturday, 18th March, 2017
Venue: Bet365 Stadium
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT

This afternoon’s game sees us travel to the Bet365 Stadium to take on a Stoke City side that has only lost twice in their last nine league games and held City to a draw last time out. Add to that our poor record against Stoke away and the fact they’ve won this fixture in two of the last three seasons, and we may be a bit more concerned about this one than the one against our somewhat easier opposition in the FA Cup during the week. Mind you, with the lumps United kicked out of us Monday night we might struggle to tell the difference.
Either way, with Stoke looking to maintain their recent form and add to their tally of wins against us, the lack of recent goals conceded in their last couple of games suggests they’ll be trying to shut us out with whatever tactic it takes, so it really could be like Groundhog Day this afternoon.

MANAGER’S VIEWS
Going into today’s game, Stoke manager Mark Hughes says “We are all trying to develop clubs and players and to do that you need time – and unfortunately a lot of managers aren’t getting that. This is my fourth season and it’s the exception to the rule. It’s getting more and more difficult, I would say. Sometimes players have a direct line to owners and that can be dangerous. Should you be asking players who are disenfranchised with the manager? We have got an ownership here who are very close to the players and will engage and interact with them, but that direct line isn’t there and that is correct.”
Chelsea boss Antonio Conte meanwhile, says “It won’t be easy, Stoke are a really strong, physical team with great players. For this reason, we must pay great attention and focus. In the game at Stamford Bridge, Stoke City played very well. We won 4-2, but the game was played very well by both teams. They have a really good team, a good coach, and for sure they want to prepare in the right way for this game. We will have a tough test.”

SQUAD NEWS
For Stoke, Glen Johnson is out with a shoulder problem, Marko Arnautovic is expected to return from illness, Xherdan Shaqiri is back after a six match absence and Wilfried Bony is available again after being ineligible to play against City.
For Chelsea, Victor Moses is apparently available despite going off Monday. Antonio Conte is otherwise still counting the bruises before deciding who else starts.

TEAMS
STOKE (Possible line-up): Grant; Bardsley, Shawcross, Indi, Pieters; Cameron, Whelan; Sobhi, Allen, Arnautovic; Crouch
CHELSEA (Possible line-up): Courtois; Azpilicueta, Luiz, Cahill; Moses, Pedro, Matic, Kante, Alonso; Hazard, Costa, Pedro

LAST SEASON
Stoke 1-0 Chelsea (7th November 2015)

RECENT FORM (PL)
STOKE: DWLWL
CHELSEA: WWDWD

OTHER STUFF
~ Chelsea have only won two of their last seven games away to Stoke in all competitions.
~ Stoke have managed just two wins in 17 of these Premier League meetings
~ Stoke are unbeaten in eight league home games
~ Stoke have kept three clean sheets in their last four league games.
~ Stoke have won just one of their 12 previous games against teams who began the match top of the Premier League
~ All nine of Stoke’s league wins this season have come against teams currently ranked 12th or lower.
~ Chelsea have won 18 of their 20 Premier League matches this season against the teams currently outside the top five.
~ Chelsea’s only defeat in their last 22 league and cup games came at Spurs on 4 January
~ Chelsea have kept just two clean sheets in their last nine league games

PREDICTION
BBC Sport: Stoke 0-2 Chelsea
Sky Sports: Stoke 0-2 Chelsea
Sportslens: Stoke 0-1 Chelsea

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