22 Sep, 12:55
Date: Saturday, September 23
Time: 5:00 PM
Place: Britannia Stadium
Chelsea boss Antonio Conte is set to face his hardest challenge yet-just maybe- this season as Stoke City welcome the defending champions to what is arguably one of the most hostile environments in the Premier League - the Britannia Stadium.
The Godfather will be looking to get his title defense campaign back on track by closing the gap between his side and the two Manchester teams, but the the tactician will have to contend with formidable opponents who boast of having the uncanny ability to make things difficult for top teams at home, evidenced by the Potters’ had fought 1-0 win over Arsenal and 2-2 draw against title favourites Manchester United on August 19 and September 9 respectively.
Chelsea have been faring better than Stoke in their first five fixtures of the new campaign, having won three, drawn one and lost one match to land them at third place as opposed to Mark Hughes’ squad, who have only managed to win one match, draw two and lose two to land them at 13th place.
The following are the teams’ forms in their last six matches:
Stoke City - L L D D W W
Chelsea - W D W W W W
Chelsea head into this monumental clash with almost all players at their disposal as winger Eden Hazard is expected to make his first start of the season for the Blues. Fellow marksman Pedro is however a doubt for the fixture and will require an assessment after injuring his ankle in their 0-0 draw against Arsenal last weekend, whereas midfielder Danny Drinkwater is expected to continue his absence from the squad.
Centre-back David Luiz will miss the match as the defensive specialist is currently suspended for his recent antics against Arsenal.
Stoke’s injuries are on the other hand a cause for concern as midfielders Stephen Ireland (broken leg) and Ibrahim Afellay (knee), and defender Glen Johnson (shoulder) are all out with long-term injuries.
Skipper Ryan Shawcross may make a return after missing the last two games due to a back injury whereas centre-back Kurt Zouma, who is loan from Chelsea, will miss the match as he is ineligible to play against his parent club.
Stoke City: Butland; Wimmer, Shawcross, Martins Indi; Diouf, Fletcher, Allen, Pieters; Shaqiri, Jese; Choupo-Moting.
Chelsea: Courtois; Azpilicueta, Cahill, Rudiger; Moses, Kante, Bakayoko, Alonso; Pedro, Hazard; Morata
Expect both teams to score in this fixture as Stoke look poised to try and match Chelsea’s offensive superiority with heroics from winger Xherdan Shaqiri and forward Choupo-Moting.
I will however give the edge and thus the win to Chelsea as their offensive firepower will ultimately prove too much for the Potters to handle.