Chelsea are back in action on Saturday, with a busy few days ahead. This clash comes just before a midweek trip to Arsenal, and then their FA Cup Third Round tie the following weekend. That wraps up a busy Christmas schedule, one which could make or break their season. Antonio Conte will want his side strengthening their place inside the top three, while they’ll have an eye on second with United faltering. While Man City are set to run away with the title, the Blues could force their way into second place in their title defence.
This season is playing out very differently for the Blues this time around, as they were the runaway leaders at Christmas last year. However, Conte’s side are now competing across multiple fronts, while at this stage last season they only had the league and FA Cup to focus on. With four competitions to compete in, squad rotation is going to be a big part of the next couple of months, so we should see a changed Chelsea side heading out at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
Team News: Conte Expected to Rotate to Cope with Christmas Congestion
The Blues come in to this one on the back of a solid victory over Brighton, which saw a number of changes. They’ve handled their squad well across the Christmas schedule so far, and we expect that to be the case when Stoke roll in to town this weekend. Gary Cahill got a break last time out, and we expect him to return to the side for this one. The 3-5-2 formation used against Brighton should remain, with Danny Drinkwater likely to feature in a three-man midfield. The key for Conte will be keeping things fresh, especially with a big test to come at the Emirates during the week.
On-loan Chelsea defender Kurt Zouma is a big miss for the Potters, his presence in their defence is a pretty big one, as most Blues’ fans will know. He’s among the defensive absentees for the Potters, with Erik Pieters a doubt, and Bruno Martins Indi is another who is likely to sit out here. Up against Chelsea that could be crucial, with the Blues possessing some impressive attacking talents. A defensive reshuffle is likely to be on the cards for Mark Hughes, which isn’t ideal as they try to stave off the threat of relegation.
Stoke are having far from a vintage year, and they’ve spent most of the campaign worrying about relegation. The Potters were rumoured to be considering Hughes’ position not too long ago, with a 2-1 win over West Brom seemingly keeping him in place over Christmas. The club still aren’t out of danger, and they remain one of the worst organised sides in the top flight.
Stoke have had particular problems on the road this season, claiming just a single victory on their travels. They’ve lost 60% of their away trips this term, averaging just 0.6 points per game on the road. That’s got to be a concern ahead of this game away to Chelsea, a side who have one of the strongest home records in the top flight.
Chelsea v Stoke Head to Head
Chelsea are in a good run of form against Stoke, as they won home and away against the Potters last season. They followed that up by pulling off one of their most impressive results this season against Hughes and his team, winning 4-0 at the bet365 Stadium back in September this season. While that sparked the possibility of a title charge, the Blues simply haven’t hit those heights regularly. Will they be able to return to that impressive form with a win here?
- Stoke 0-4 Chelsea, Sept 2017
- Stoke 1-2 Chelsea, Mar 2017
- Chelsea 4-2 Stoke, Dec 2016
- Chelsea 1-1 Stoke, Mar 2016
- Stoke 1-0 Chelsea, Nov 2015
- Chelsea to win to nil – 4/5 with BetVictor
- Chelsea -3 handicap – 4/1 with Betfair
The Blues come in to this game as heavy favourites to claim all three points against the Potters. Following their comprehensive victory in the last meeting, the champions have been priced at just 1/6 with Coral for the victory, while the visitors have drifted out to 20/1 with Ladbrokes. You can back the draw at 6/1 with Betfred in this game, but little about the form of these two suggests that this game will be anything but a straightforward victory for the home side. With Alvaro Morata backed in to 7/12 with Coral to score in the 90 minutes, it’s fair to expect a few goals in this one too.
Stoke head to a Chelsea side who are in solid form at home, having won 70% of their home matches this term. They’ve won their last six here in the league, while four of their last five victories at the Bridge in the Premier League have come to nil. Stoke don’t exactly have a lot of attacking talent going forward, and the Blues have already kept a clean sheet in the away meeting this term. We expect this to be a comfortable victory for the champions, and we think a win to nil is worth backing in this one, and it is priced at 4/5 with BetVictor.
The Blues recorded a thumping win over Stoke earlier this term, and that’s nothing new for the Potters. Not only did they ship four goals in their trip here last season, but they’ve already suffered heavy losses against some of the league’s top teams. The Potters were hit for seven in their game at the Etihad against leaders City, while they lost 5-1 against Tottenham at Wembley recently. With that in mind, we think the Blues’ attack could click against this weakened Stoke defence, one which has lost by four goals on three occasions already this term. We’re backing the Blues with a -3 handicap here at a huge 4/1 with Betfair.