Chelsea return to action after the international break on Saturday evening, as they face Stoke at Stamford Bridge. The Blues will have the chance to take a temporary nine point lead at the top of the table, with Manchester City not in action until Monday night. With just nine matches left to play, the league leaders could take a big step towards the title with a win this weekend.
Since Stoke got themselves in to the Premier League, they’ve had an awful record against Chelsea. They’ve lost 10 of 13 meetings between the sides, winning just once. In six of the last seven meetings between the two, Stoke have failed to score. Those stats point to a good result for Chelsea in this match, one which would give them a big boost in the title race.
Their record at Stamford Bridge has been one of the key factors in Chelsea dominating the league since the start of the season. They’ve not lost a game at home all season, a classic Mourinho trait. He’ll be expecting that to stay the same until the end of the campaign, especially after he guaranteed the title at a press conference following their Champions League elimination. It’s not the first time he’s done this, he did it in his first two seasons at the club, even correctly predicting the day they’d win it in his first season.
There has been no such prediction this time, simply the statement that they will end the season as Premier League champions. With no other commitments to distract them that will be the goal from now right until the title has been won, making you wonder just how much the squad players will feature. Right now there are only two injuries in the group, to Diego Costa and John Obi Mikel. Mourinho has said he owes Loic Remy a chance after he scored the winner at Hull, so it’s likely neither of those two would feature here anyway.
In terms of the rest of the side, Mourinho’s defence rarely changes, while four of the five midfield spots are pretty much decided. Really the question is Willian or Juan Cuadrado on the right, with the rest of the team picking itself. The problem with that is the likes of Oscar and Cesc Fabregas have been way below par lately but can they turn that around against Stoke?
As much as a routine win is expected here, you have to remember that Stoke went to the Etihad this season and won. They’re in the top 10 and targeting a higher finish, so they’re hardly pushovers. The hosts should win, as long as they play to their best. Once again it comes down to the occasional complacency the players can show, with a lack of a ruthless edge a much maligned problem. While it’s hard to see the team throwing away the lead they have, a lack of focus could make the run in a lot harder than it has to be, although they should have too much here.
LCN Verdict: Chelsea to win 2-0