Venue: Stamford Bridge
Date: Sunday, 25 April 2010
Kick-off: 1600 BST
With Spurs failing to put in the same sort of performance yesterday as they did against us, United’s win has seen us slip back into second place and our goal difference trimmed to just the one. Obviously we can still win the title as long as we win our remaining three games but that’s easier said than done, especially against a resilient Stoke side.
Our last couple of games against Stoke have been close calls, with a winner in the 88th minute last season and the slightly later injury-time winner from Malouda in September, so we’ll need something a little more convincing today to quieten the critics.
Ahead of the game, Carlo Ancelotti says “The players feel the pressure now because Chelsea are very close to winning the title for the first time in three years. They are very close and, maybe, they feel more pressure. But this is absolutely normal. It’s better to have this than to stay ten points behind and not have anything to play for. We have a great possibility, a great opportunity to win and so we have to stay calm, quiet and have to prepare well for the games until the end of the season without emotion. We have to stay very composed, focused and concentrated because we have three important games. Every game could be difficult, but we have a very big opportunity to win. We don’t want to miss out on this chance. We are one point clear and that could be enough, that could be an advantage. The title is in our hands. We are not interested in the results of the other teams. We need to win the three games to bring the title home. Stoke are a dangerous team. They use a lot of throw-ins and free-kicks, they are a strong, physical team. We analysed the Tottenham performance and we made a mistake. But we’ve worked this week to avoid making it again, maintaining a good atmosphere in the squad. Now’s not the time to look back. We must look forward. We have prepared very well for this game, and we have to win.”
Stoke manager Tony Pulis is fairly confident his side could have a say in the title race though, stating “We have got very close to taking something from Chelsea in the past couple of seasons, but still not managed to beat them. But we have a game plan, we always do against one of the big clubs, and we always believe we can achieve something in these sort of games. I am delighted that we have already reached a position in the season where we are safe from relegation already. It is now good to be involved in such high-profile matches against Chelsea and Manchester United in our final four games, and we will be facing teams fighting for their lives. That will give us the incentive to respond. Going to Stamford Bridge and Old Trafford will see us facing one of the sides who will be the champions. If Chelsea don’t do it then it will be Manchester United. That is a tough end to a season for anyone, and we are aware of the challenge. People probably won’t give us much of a chance at Chelsea, but we will give a good account of ourselves and play to our very best.”
Injury news for us is that Michael Essien, Jose Bosingwa (both knee), Ricardo Carvalho and John Obi Mikel (both ankle) all miss out. John Terry also sits this one out through suspension, although Ashley Cole should return and Didier Drogba will continue despite his ongoing groin trouble.
For Stoke, Sidibe (groin) is likely to remain out, Diao (calf) and Fuller (Achilles) are given as doubts although Shawcross is back from injury.
CHELSEA (from): Cech, Hilario, Turnbull, A Cole, Kalou, Alex, Drogba, Malouda, Lampard, Deco, Anelka, Zhirkov, J Cole, Belletti, Ballack, Kakuta, Sturridge, Ferreira, Bruma, Ivanovic.
STOKE (from): Sorensen, Huth, Abdoulaye Faye, Collins, Lawrence, Whelan, Whitehead, Delap, Etherington, Kitson, Fuller, Tuncay, Pugh, Wilkinson, Moult, Amdy Faye, Begovic, Beattie, Sidibe.
Stoke 1-2 Chelsea (12 September 2009)
We might still be in with a shout of the title going into this game, as for whether or not that’ll be the case at the end of today, I don’t even want to think that far ahead to be honest.
CHELSEA: Today: Stoke City (h). May 2: Liverpool (a). May 9: Wigan Athletic (h).
UNITED: May 2: Sunderland (a). May 9: Stoke City (h).