Chelsea aim to restore title hopes with Stoke in town
After a week in which they have lost twice in two different competitions, Chelsea welcome Stoke City to Stamford Bridge in a bid to get their title aspirations back on track.
Having lost top-spot in the Premier League to Liverpool, Jose Mourinho knows this is a ‘must win’ match, though has bemoaned the performance of his strikers recently.
Despite losing away at Crystal Palace last time out domestically, Chelsea remain clear odds-on favourites for the game at 2/9, which is further reflected by Stoke’s odds of 11/1. Coral are offering 5/1 for the draw.
Mourinho’s men have a formidable home record this season in the league, and have yet to record a defeat in 20 games, while their win record stands at 85 percent.
The Potters welcome back striker Jonathan Walters from suspension, and midfielder Oussama Assaidi from injury, with their heart set on a top 10 finish. Assaidi clinched the winner against Chelsea at the Britannia Stadium in a 3-2 victory in December, and his return could prove to be timely. He is 11/2 to net at anytime.
Stoke need two wins, and for results to go their way in order to secure their status for the next Premier League season, though the subject of survival, at this stage is generally academic.
After finding the net in the week against PSG, Eden Hazard will play a crucial part in helping to secure victory. He is 13/2 first scorer with Coral. Stoke’s best hopes could lie with Peter Odemwingie who is 4/1 to dispatch at anytime.
Mourinho was somewhat assertive when questioned about the game, insisting he will field a competitive team:
“I say we lost against this team and it was not a long time ago.
“We lost to them one month ago. They are a difficult team. Very physical, very direct.
“They’re very strong in set pieces. I expect a very difficult match [and] that’s why I’m going to play a strong team.
“I’m not going to make big changes in the team because we’re going to try and go as far as possible in the competition.”
Mark Hughes, meanwhile, was upbeat about his team’s chances. He told the club’s official website:
“I think it’s fair to say that their form at the moment isn’t where they would expect it to be.
“What you find with top clubs though is they bounce back very quickly, and when questions are asked, top players and top teams more often than not they tend to have the answers.
“We have to be mindful of a backlash, but we are in a good place at the moment, and if there is ever a good time to go to a place like Stamford Bridge then that is when you are in better form that Chelsea, which we possibly are at the moment.
“Confidence is always important at places like Chelsea, and we have to make sure we show that and show no apprehension, and then see where it takes us.
“We’ve had a decent month, and back-to-back wins is huge in the Premier League, because very quickly you can move up the league table.”
With Hughes challenging his players to become the first team to take all three points from Stamford Bridge under the Jose Mourinho era, and Chelsea needing to bounce back, this is a match that is in danger of being a typical anti-climax.
Both teams are clinical from set pieces, though with more riding on this for Chelsea a nervy 2-1 home win could be the outcome. Coral price this outcome at 9/1.