Venue: Stamford Bridge
Date: Saturday, 17 January
Kick-off: 1500 GMT
Here we go again then, another home game, more nerves and probably a lot more pressure in a game against Stoke than we’d have anticipated last time we played them. Our set-pieces are woeful and theirs definitely isn’t, bearing in mind they score a lot of their goals from them.
Our last league game saw us get a right battering – and deservedly so – and we might have redeemed ourselves a little bit against Southend in the cup but I’ve no doubt we’ll have to hope the players are every bit as aware as we are that it was only Southend.
Scolari is certainly aware of the threat, saying “Stoke are more dangerous than all the teams in England and the world and they will be a good test for us. If you look at their statistics, they have scored 18 goals and 11 have been from corners, free-kicks or throw-ins. We have been thinking about our problems and we have some solutions.”
Maybe he’s decided to park a juggernaut in front of Petr Cech for this one then because our defenders could definitely use the help.
Anyway, on the injury front it’s not good news for Chelsea because in addition to long-term absentee Michael Essien, we now have both Deco and Joe Cole unavailable through injury and we’ve yet to see whether or not Scolari feels Didier Drogba has learnt anything from his time out against Southend. Ricardo Carvalho and Florent Malouda both return to the squad though having recovered from their injuries.
For Stoke, Salif Diao could be back in contention and James Beattie is expected to go straight into the starting line-up. Ricardo Fuller misses out through suspension.
John Terry – For me, the Chelsea captain really has to step up his game for this one. Our defence has been bloody shocking this season, particularly against set-pieces. Stoke will test that at every opportunity they get and Terry will have to perform at his best to prevent us dropping more points at home today.
Rory Delap – We got lucky last time we played Stoke with Delap being out injured, otherwise we might not have walked away with the points. We all know the damage his throw-ins can do and there’s no doubt at all he’ll be looking to punish our vulnerability at every opportunity.
The fact that we’ve got our lowest points tally after 21 games for six years, reflects the sort of form we’ve shown this season. This is our worst start to the season since Abramovich arrived – we’re already two points down on where we were this time last season and have won only one of our last five games in the league. We’ve been pretty inconsistent at Stamford Bridge since losing our unbeaten run in October, with two won, two drawn and another defeat. We go into this game 3rd in the table.
Stoke are without an away win in the league in 10 and are looking for their first win in eight Premier League games. They’ve also spent the whole of the season in the bottom half of the table. Stoke go into this game 17th in the table.
HEAD TO HEAD
Stoke haven’t taken maximum points off us for 34 years although we haven’t done the double over them in the top-flight for some 37 seasons.
Home and away
League (inc PL): Chelsea 31 wins, Stoke 22 wins, Draws 16
Prem: Chelsea 1 win, Stoke 0 wins, Draws 0
At Chelsea only
League (inc PL): Chelsea 17 wins, Stoke 7 wins, Draws 10
THIS SEASON’S REVERSE
STOKE 0-2 CHELSEA
27 September 2008 – Ref: Martin Atkinson
Chelsea scorers: Bosingwa 36, Anelka 76
Stoke won’t having any fear of playing us at Stamford Bridge (no-one does apparently) and getting a respectable result against the current league leaders will see them start with a lot more confidence than a nervous Chelsea I’d imagine. They’ve also bolstered their side with players like Beattie and Etherington, both players capable of upsetting us. Add to that the damage Delap could do us if our defence hasn’t sorted itself out and we could really struggle. Having said that, let’s not forget Stoke aren’t winning games either and on our day, we’re more than capable of playing a bit – particularly when we’ve been written off. I still think this has got draw written all over it though.
CHELSEA (from): Cech, Cudicini, Hilario, Ferreira, Bosingwa, Terry, Ivanovic, Alex, Carvalho, A Cole, Belletti, Lampard, Ballack, Mikel, Kalou, Stoch, Anelka, Drogba, Malouda, Di Santo, Mineiro, Mancienne.
STOKE (from): Sorensen, Griffin, Abdoulaye Faye, Shawcross, Higginbotham, Delap, Amdy Faye, Whelan, Diao, Etherington, Beattie, Cresswell, Kitson, Simonsen, Wilkinson, Olofinjana, Lawrence, Tonge, Sonko, Pugh.
Peter Walton (Northants)