The next opportunity for Chelsea to try and put a stop to their faltering defence of the Premier League comes on Saturday at Stoke City, where they were recently knocked out of the Capital One Cup.
Securing that penalty shootout victory perhaps had an effect on the Potters, who showed signs of fatigue in their subsequent outing at Newcastle United last weekend, where they had goalkeeper Jack Butland to thank for preserving a point in a goalless draw. It was not the first time the Bristol-born stopper has rescued his side from defeat, and he really is seizing the chance which was given to him by the summer departure of Asmir Begovic, who will line up against him here.
Given the number of creative players they have, plenty of whom have pedigree, it is a big surprise that Stoke are currently the lowest scorers in the Premier League with just nine goals to their name. Maybe the likes of Ibrahim Afellay and Xherdan Shaqiri are yet to fully gel with their new teammates, or maybe the club just lacks a player in the centre of midfield who can dictate the play from more of a deep-lying position, but their impotency will be a source of concern for boss Mark Hughes.
For once in a Chelsea match, the cameras will not focused on manager Jose Mourinho, nor will the headlines on Sunday morning centre on his post-match comments – or lack of. That is because the Portuguese has crossed the line once too many an incurred a one-match stadium ban. The officials will be among the most relieved at that, and it was Mark Clattenburg who was the subject of his wrath last weekend as it all went horribly wrong again, this time against Liverpool.
Such gripes took little away from the fact that his team were terrible on the day yet again, with so many quality players performing well below their capabilities. One shining light for the Blues this term has been Willian, who scored another sublime free-kick to give them a much-needed Champions League win over Dynamo Kiev on Wednesday at an edgy Stamford Bridge, but the bad run will not be over unless results improve over a sustained period of time.
For Stoke, Marco van Ginkel is ineligible to face his parent club, but Geoff Cameron returns from injury and Phil Bardsley is back from a one-match ban.
This game is likely to come too soon for Chelsea right-back Branislav Ivanovic, but they do have summer signing Pedro Rodriguez fit again.
Last Meeting: Chelsea showed exactly why they were headed for the title with a strong and authoritative performance to win at Stoke in December 2014. The first goal came early on as John Terry powered home a header from a corner kick, and as the hosts the restricted to few chances throughout, the game was put beyond doubt by Cesc Fabregas’ scruffy effort with 12 minutes left for play.
Played for both – Robert Huth: The powerful German defender made his professional debut for Chelsea in 2002, going on to make 42 appearances for the club in the Premier League until leaving to earn more first-team football in 2006. After three years at Middlesbrough he was off to Stoke, where he played in Europe after helping them to the 2011 FA Cup final, forming a fine centre-back partnership with Ryan Shawcross in the process.
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