Chelsea’s final game of 2016 sees them host Stoke at Stamford Bridge on New Year’s Eve, can they finish the year six points clear? The Blues will be widely expected to continue their impressive winning run, which has led them to a commanding lead at the top of the Premier League. Can they extend that with a victory over 13th placed Stoke?
The visitors come here in a poor run of form, can they repeat the draw that they picked up here last season? This Chelsea side are a lot different, they’ve put together a fantastic 12 game winning run. They can equal Arsenal’s 13 game winning run record with a victory on Saturday. They’re heavy favourites for the points, especially now that Antonio Conte has almost a full strength side to choose from.
Team News: Conte Welcomes back Costa and Kante
Chelsea’s only missing player ahead of this game is John Terry, who hasn’t started a league game since the trip to Swansea in early September anyway. David Luiz, Gary Cahill and Cesar Azpilicueta are set to start at centre back for the 13th game running. They’ll be protected by N’Golo Kante, with the former Leicester man now back from suspension for this weekend’s game.
Kante and Diego Costa were both suspended for the victory over Bournemouth, but they return for the final game of the year. Cesc Fabregas came in to the side ahead of the last game, and he’s probably earned a place in the starting line-up. Nemanja Matic has started the last two games, and he could be rested here. Conte played Eden Hazard as a false nine, with Willian and Pedro in support. The Spaniard impressed, opening the scoring, so we expect the Brazilian to drop out for Costa. Conte is likely to shift back to the side which won 1-0 at Crystal Palace before Christmas.
Stoke have a couple of injury worries for this game, with Jack Butland once again missing in goal. Stephen Ireland and Geoff Cameron are both injured for this trip, while key attacker Marko Arnautovic is suspended. The Potters started with a back three at Anfield, but it’s hard to see them taking the same approach here. After all, the last sides who tried to match Conte’s system were Man City and Everton, and that didn’t finish well for either of them. Expect a more conservative team selection from Mark Hughes here.
Stoke come here having failed to win any of their last four games. That includes their first match of the festive period, which saw them thumped 4-1 at Anfield. They took a shock lead against Liverpool, but they couldn’t cope with the Reds’ forward line. The way that back three crumbled doesn’t bode well for them in this trip, especially given how lethal the Blues can be going forward.
Stoke are usually a side who push for the top half, but they’ve spent a large chunk of this season fighting relegation. They’ve manged just over a goal per game in the league, while they’ve let in 28 in total before the half-way stage. There are clearly some big problems for Hughes to fix, and his side still needs plenty of work. A trip to Chelsea isn’t exactly what he would have wanted, given how Conte’s side are in incredible form and full of confidence.
Chelsea v Stoke Head to Head
The Blues really struggled in three meetings with Stoke last season. They were dumped out of the EFL Cup on penalties in October last year, before a 1-0 league defeat there the next month. Even their meeting at Stamford Bridge was disappointing, with a late equaliser giving the Potters’ a 1-1 draw. Chelsea did win home and away against Stoke on their way to the 2015 title, can they do the same this term?
- Chelsea 1-1 Stoke, Mar 2016
- Stoke 1-0 Chelsea, Nov 2015
- Stoke 1-1 Chelsea, Oct 2015
- Chelsea 2-1 Stoke, Apr 2015
- Stoke 0-2 Chelsea, Dec 2014
- Over 2.5 Chelsea goals – 6/5 with BetVictor
- Diego Costa to score first – 5/2 with Coral
Chelsea come in to this game as heavy favourites: they’re 1/4 with Ladbrokes to take the points on Saturday. Meanwhile, Stoke are 12/1 outsiders with Betfred. Clearly the leaders are expected to continue their excellent winning run, but will they make this a 13th victory out of 13? They’ll have to be careful, as Stoke have a decent away scoring record. They’ve found the net at Old Trafford, Anfield and the Emirates so far this season. The hosts have conceded just two goals in their winning streak, but backing them to win to nil here could be risky, especially as the Potters have scored on their last two trips to the Bridge.
However, we can see quite a few goals for the Blues this weekend. They’re up against a side who have conceded far too many in recent games. The Potters shipped four at Liverpool, three at Arsenal and two at home to a 10 man Leicester side. With Chelsea in excellent form and scoring for fun, we can see them adding to Hughes’ misery. Six of the Blues’ last nine games here have seen them score three or more goals. We’re backing a repeat of that, with over 2.5 goals for the hosts priced at 6/5 with BetVictor.
Costa wasn’t missed last time out, and the forward got a much needed rest. He’ll walk back into the side for this game, given that he’s the league’s top scorer. We can see him being refreshed, given that he’s had two weeks break heading into this game. That’s bad news for Stoke, and we’re backing them to suffer. Costa has six goals in his last eight outings, and we’re predicting him to open the scoring this weekend, which is priced at 5/2 with Coral.