Stoke are the visitors to Stamford Bridge on Saturday as the Blues play their last game of 2017. After a recent struggle, the Potters’ form has picked up recently with a win over West Brom and a draw at Huddersfield over the past week. Mark Hughes’s side are in the middle of a relegation scrap while Chelsea are comfortably sitting in third place so both teams need the points.
David Luiz and Charly Musonda trained with the first team on Thursday with the Brazilian expected to return to the squad after a recent knee injury. Andreas Christensen could also return to the Chelsea defence having missed the Boxing Day fixture against Brighton. Mark Hughes has a dilemma in defence with both Ryan Shawcross and Bruno Martins Indi ruled out while Kurt Zouma is ineligible against his parent club. The Welsh manager has hinted that he’ll use youth to replace those players instead of playing people out of position. Erik Pieters may have to play despite not being fully fit.
Probable Chelsea XI: Courtois; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Cahill; Moses, Fabregas, Kante, Bakayoko, Alonso; Hazard, Morata.
Probable Stoke XI: Butland; Diouf, Cameron, Souttar, Wimmer, Edwards; Shaqiri, Fletcher, Allen, Sobhi; Choupo-Moting.
It’s very likely that Stoke will sit back and look to frustrate Chelsea so, for the seventh league game in a row, they’re going to have the majority of possession. In those last few games, Chelsea have failed to score in two of them and Antonio Conte won’t want a repeat of that so he’ll be looking to Cesc Fabregas and Eden Hazard to unlock that Stoke defence. Victor Moses and Marcos Alonso are likely to come up against wing-backs themselves – they’ll need the help of Eden Hazard or another midfielder to double up against their opposite number in order to cause them problems. If they actually want to win the game, Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting is going to have to hold the ball up and provide an outlet for his team. Don’t be surprised to see Peter Crouch come on or even start.
Chelsea’s record against Stoke
The Potters have never won at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League and have avoided defeat just once during a 1-1 draw in the 2015/16 season. In fact, Chelsea haven’t lost at home to Stoke in a league fixture for over 43 years.
Their meeting last season ended in a 4-2 victory for Chelsea and it was their 13th consecutive league win with goals from Gary Cahill, Willian (2) and Diego Costa. Alvaro Morata will be licking his lips for this one having bagged a hat-trick at the Bet365 Stadium earlier this season in a 4-0 win.
Can Chelsea finish a successful year on a high? Find out on Saturday when Stoke come to town.