Chelsea vs Stoke City: Match preview, likely line-ups and score prediction
Chelsea could extend their winning streak to 13 matches if they take the three points against Stoke City. That would move them just one victory away from levelling the longest winning run in Premier League history, which is held by Arsenal. They are now the overwhelming favourites to lift the Premier League trophy in May and have already established a six-point lead over their nearest rivals Liverpool. Their position will be strengthened one way or another this weekend as Liverpool are facing Manchester City.
They have been incredible since changing to a 3-4-3 formation and they managed to beat Bournemouth on Boxing Day, despite the absences of both N’Golo Kante and Diego Costa. Both will return on Saturday and provide Chelsea will a boost ahead of kick-off when the teams are announced. There are some pundits that believe Chelsea should be awarded the title already, but it is important that Antonio Conte guards against complacency within the squad.
Stoke City will have been disappointed by their most recent fixture as they were convincingly beaten at Anfield. It is important that they don’t suffer another big loss against Chelsea. Although both sides are significantly stronger than the Potters, it could have a damaging effect on the team morale ahead of 2017. They managed to take the lead against Liverpool, but it never looked likely that they would be able to hang on to that.
Chelsea are in imperious form, having failed to win only three of their 18 league matches this season. They have won their last 12 matches and will be full of confidence heading into this weekend. The Blues have the best defence in the league and have kept ten clean sheets since their change in formation 12 matches ago.
The visitors have struggled over the last month, as they have taken just two points from their last four matches. They have now dropped to 13th and another defeat this weekend could see them drop closer to the relegation zone.
N’Golo Kante and Diego Costa are likely to come into the side meaning that Chelsea will make two changes to the side that beat Bournemouth. Pedro and Cesc Fabregas will drop out, while Eden Hazard will move back to a wide role.
I expect Stoke to change to a 4-2-3-1 formation after they struggled defensively with the system used at Liverpool. Xherdan Shaqiri and Ibrahim Afellay could both come in to add some creativity on the flanks, but I expect Jonathan Walters to retain his starting place after a goal at Anfield.
Chelsea Stoke City
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John Terry is back in full training after a hip injury and could be included in the match-day squad. Diego Costa and N’Golo Kante are back after suspensions, but Pedro will be missing this weekend after picking up his fifth booking of the season against Bournemouth.
Marko Arnautovic is missing for one more match due to his suspension. Stephen Ireland, Jack Butland, Phil Bardsley and Geoff Cameron are all still missing through injury.
It is difficult to see anything other than a Chelsea win this weekend. They have been incredible recently and have shown no signs of slowing down. There will be tests ahead for them, but I can’t see them slipping up at Stamford Bridge, especially to a side that is out of form like Stoke City. Mark Hughes tried to surprise Liverpool with his team selection in the last match and it did provide his side with a good start, but he didn’t know how to keep hold of that lead. Chelsea don’t concede many clear cut chances and they are bound to create some, especially with Eden Hazard and Diego Costa both in great form. It should be a home win on Saturday.
Score prediction: Chelsea 2-0 Stoke City