Clinical Chelsea to take their time over Stoke FA Cup win
Chelsea once again advertised the vast depth within the Stamford Bridge playing ranks by selling Juan Mata to Manchester United, a move that showcased Jose Mourinho’s supreme confidence in his latest Blues project.
The Special One’s decision to dispense with the services of Thibaut Courtois, Romelu Lukaku and Victor Moses – all of whom are near certainties to start their countries’ opening 2014 World Cup fixtures – for the entirety of the 2013/14 season was greeted with many a raised eyebrow, but Mourinho has already begun his last laugh.
Chelsea – who can be backed at 13/5 to win the Premier League – are just two points off the top of the table and look in ominously good form, having won six and drawn one top-flight match (at leaders Arsenal) since going down 3-2 at Stoke seven weeks ago.
The Potters have been in woeful form since, claiming five points from a possible 21 in the division and, while they may draw hope from their surprise victory against the Blues at the Britannia, Chelsea’s remarkable stock of talent means Mourinho is practically incapable of fielding a ‘weakened’ side.
Ashley Cole, who’s still odds on at 4/6 to line-up in England’s XI against Italy next June, is likely to come in for either Branislav Ivanovic or Cesar Azpilicueta, while reported Bayern Munich and Barcelona target David Luiz looks set to drop back in at centre-half to allow new £21m signing Nemanja Matic his second full debut for the club after rejoining from Benfica.
With Andre Schurrle, who’s set to gain most from Mata’s sale, primed to freshen up the forward ranks alongside in-form Brazilians Oscar and Willian, the hosts look absolute bankers to gain revenge on Mark Hughes’ men at 2/9 in this FA Cup fourth-round clash, but recent results suggest there’s more value to be had in the HT/FT market.
The 3-1 defeat of United last time out was the first game in four Chelsea won despite going into the break on level terms, and as Stoke have held out for at least 45 minutes in three of their last four fixtures, backing the draw half-time/Chelsea full-time at 14/5 odds looks a great way to boost the coffers.