Off the back of a tough away trip to Liverpool earlier in the week, things don’t get any easier for Stoke, as they face a Chelsea side that are currently on a 12 match winning streak.
Chelsea vs Stoke City
Date: Saturday 31st December 2016
Venue: Stamford Bridge
Competition: Premier League
Last time they met: Chelsea 1-1 Stoke City
Latest betting odds (Bet365):
Stoke City: 13/1
Our prediction: Stoke to win or draw (Double Chance): 3/1
Long shot: Stoke to win, both teams to score: 25/1
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The Blues have been rejuvenated under Antonio Conte, and after finishing below The Potters last season in 10th position, they are currently six points clear at the top of the table.
One of the reasons for their success is their defensive record. With the three at the back formation that Conte has brought with him from Italy, Chelsea have conceded just 11 goals this season, and has seen former Stoke player Victor Moses given a new lease of life at right wing back.
Conte should also be applauded for getting the form of Eden Hazard and Diego Costa back on track. The duo looked lacklustre last season, much like the rest of the Chelsea side, but this season, Conte has got them back firing again, which has been a huge boost.
Costa, who will return from suspension on Saturday, is the current top goalscorer in the Premier League with 13 goals, and Hazard is not far behind with 9, five more than he managed in the whole of last season. This definitely gives Stoke something to worry about, especially after our defensive performance against Liverpool, something which Chelsea will look to capitalise on.
Asides from their attack, the return of N’Golo Kante will be a welcome addition to the Chelsea midfield. The Frenchman showed his quality at Leicester last season, and has proved that he is not just a one season wonder, anchoring the midfield and characteristically chasing every loose ball.
Conte’s side will be hoping to add to their winning streak this weekend, but can Stoke replicate last seasons result at Stamford Bridge, or better yet go on and win?
Predicted Chelsea line-up:
Courtois; Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Cahill; Moses, Kante, Matic, Alonso; Willian, Costa, Hazard
There’s not much to say about the Liverpool result, other than that is just wasn’t good enough. Granted Liverpool are a top side and are playing some good football at the moment, but defensively, we shoudln’t be conceding 4 goals once again.
The concern for Saturday’s game is that Chelsea are on a different level than any team in the league at this point, so will we be able to cope with the likes of Hazard and Costa, who are in sublime form.
There are currently question marks on what formation we are likely to play. You would assume that we’d stick with the three at the back formation, that has worked ok in the past. But after Tuesday’s result, and the fact that Chelsea will be playing a similar three back formation, will we revert back to a more comfortable four at the back?
In positive news this week, Mark Hughes has confirmed that Bojan will be staying at the club (must have read our piece on the subject), after the Spaniard held talks with the boss. He also mentioned that Bojan will feature from now until the end of the season, so we’ll likely see him appear in the starting line-up on Saturday. The one thing that annoys me about this, is the fact that Bojan had to ask to be played.
It is pretty clear that he is one of the best players at the club, and after putting a stellar performance in against Leicester the week before, he was dropped for the Liverpool game to accommodate Crouch. Although the tactic worked for the first 20/25 minutes, we lacked any creativity after that, and leaving him on the bench for the whole game was a questionable decision. Hopefully, after what has been said, we’ll see a lot more of Bojan (and hopefully Shaqiri too, god knows why he was dropped).
Predicted Stoke line-up (4-3-3):
Grant; Johnson, Shawcross, Martins Indi, Pieters; Whelan, Adam, Allen; Shaqiri, Bojan, Walters