Stoke pulled off a surprise draw at Anfield last weekend and fancy another go against us today, although Tony Pulis thinks we might be a tougher nut to crack than Liverpool.
Prior to our first league meeting with Stoke in 20 seasons, the Potters boss says “Liverpool are a great side, but I’ve watched Chelsea’s last two games and I think they are a step up on them. As a manager you are always looking for chinks in the armour of your opponents, but Chelsea have all the answers to all the questions you could pose. The pace and power of their team is phenomenal and when you add technical ability in abundance, you know you face one hell of a task.”
Meanwhile, Luiz Felipe Scolari has been focusing on Stoke’s style of play in the run up to this game, particularly Rory Delap’s impressive throw-ins. Stoke apparently narrowed their pitch during the summer to the minimum 100m x 64m dimensions, and that, along with Delap’s 37mph throw-ins have proved a profitable tactic, resulting in goals against both Villa and Everton so far this season.
The Chelsea boss says “Maybe it’s not beautiful football – but it’s effective. I think he (Delap) delivers the ball better with his hands than his foot. I haven’t seen it in my life in top football. It’s dangerous, it’s direct, it’s fantastic. I see many times the ball goes in the box and they give you big problems on the first and second ball. I like this coach (Pulis). If you are making goals, it’s more beautiful than not making goals.”
On the injury front, for Stoke, fit again Ibrahima Sonko will be in competition with Leon Cort, and Ricardo Fuller is reported to be ready to regain his place having shaken off a knock against Reading on Tuesday.
Chelsea, on the other hand, have Essien out long-term and Joe Cole (thigh) has been added to the recent spate of injuries alongside Deco (thigh) and Ricardo Carvalho (knee).
Rory Delap – his immense throw-ins seem to be attracting plenty of attention already in the Premier League and we’ll have to be careful how many we give away.
Lampard – with Deco missing, Chelsea will be looking to Frank Lampard to continue with the form he seems to have started this campaign with.
Stoke City have won only one of their five Premier League games so far, conceding ten goals. They have scored 3 and conceded 3 in the last 15 minutes of top-flight games this season. Stoke progressed to the fourth round of the Carling Cup against Reading on Tuesday, but not before a 2-2 draw saw them pushed to penalties. Stoke go into this game 18th in the league with 4 points.
Chelsea are unbeaten in 26 Premier League games (18 wins, 8 draws) and remain the only unbeaten Premier League club this calendar year (16 wins, 7 draws). Chelsea will be looking for a sixth consecutive away win to take their unbeaten run away from home to an unmatched 13 games in the Premier League. On the longest current run in the Premier League of 13 games since conceding more than one goal in a game and have conceded just one goal in winning the last five away. Chelsea go into this game 2nd in the league with 11 points.
HEAD TO HEAD
Stoke and Chelsea last met in the fifth round of the FA Cup in February 2003, with Chelsea winning 0-2. Chelsea completed the double over Stoke in a league clash in the old Second Division in May 1989. Stoke last beat Chelsea in the top-flight, in a league match 3-0 at the Victoria Ground in April 1975.
Home and Away
League (inc PL): Stoke 22 wins, Chelsea 30 wins, Draws 16
At Stoke only
League (inc PL): Stoke 15 wins, Chelsea 13 wins, Draws 6
Not entirely sure how to predict this one really. Stoke might have conceded ten goals in their first four Premier League games, but then they managed to pull off a surprising draw at Anfield. In fact, both clubs played a ‘Big Four’ opponent last weekend and both came away with a point. The fact that Stoke’s mid-week Carling Cup game was pretty drawn out could do Chelsea a favour though, having come through a pretty comfortable 4-0 themselves without too much effort required. Chelsea will have to make sure they don’t expose themselves to too many Delap throw-ins and a decent performance from Drogba wouldn’t go amiss against what appears to be a pretty leaky defence either. Defeat for Chelsea would be their 100th away from home in Premier League history, so fingers crossed we keep it at 99 and Chelsea’s 33 years since losing maximum points to Stoke is stretched to 34.
STOKE (from): Sorensen, Griffin, Cort, Sonko, Abdoulaye Faye, Higginbotham, Lawrence, Diao, Olofinjana, Delap, Kitson, Fuller, Sidibe, Simonsen, Whelan, Tonge, Wilkinson, Shawcross, Soares.
CHELSEA (from): Cech, Cudicini, Hilario, Terry, Alex, Ivanovic, A Cole, Bosingwa, Bridge, Ferreira, Lampard, Mikel, Ballack, Malouda, Kalou, Mineiro, Belletti, Sinclair, Drogba, Anelka, Di Santo
Martin Atkinson (Yorkshire)