Chelsea have now won three successive league games and despite things not quite seeming right at the Bridge the Blues are second in the Premier League (and of course have progressed with a game to spare in the Champions League).
Whilst many enjoy putting the boot in the facts are that Jose Mourinho’s team are grinding out the results and it is that ability that the Portuguese boss is best known for. In recent weeks they have been far from the fluent, convincing side fans and Roman Abramovich yearn for and yet they are still two points clear of Man City, six better off than Spurs and eight points ahead of struggling Man United.
That said, they will need to improve if they are to get a vital three points from this trip to the Britannia. Stoke have the irritating ability to raise their game when the top sides visit the Potteries and the fans always make it an intimidating environment.
The Pensioners have fared better than some of the other big boys in recent years, especially back in January when they won 4-0. The four league meetings prior to that ended in consecutive 1-0 Chelsea wins at the Bridge and a 0-0 and 1-1 draw at Stoke before that. Stoke have never beaten Chelsea in the Premier League but if the Blues play as they did at Sunderland the home side could very easily get a draw if not take all three points.
Mourinho’s men have been particularly unconvincing on the road, losing at Everton and Newcastle and drawing at United – when they offered little going forward – and at Spurs. Tough games, no doubt, but two points is clearly well below par for a side with title aspirations.
Given Stoke are down in 14th, with 14 points from 14 games (could the score be 1-4?) the visitors will certainly expect to win and whilst the Potters managed to draw 0-0 at home with Cardiff on Wednesday, prior to that they went down 4-0 at Everton.
This one looks set to be a low scoring affair, considering recent meetings between the sides (that match in January aside) but even more so given the pattern of games at the Britannia this term. A Stoke season ticket may be considered more of a punishment than a prize, given the seven games at the ground have seen a total of just eight goals. Mark Hughes’ side have the 19th most potent home attack and the second best home defence and so this one seems unlikely to be a thriller.
Chelsea should prevail but their lack of a potent striker means they are ill-equipped to deal with such a tight defence and if the away side do clinch the three points 1-0 certainly looks the most likely score. It could very easily end 0-0 or 1-1 but we just about think the Blues will do enough and maybe John Terry will be the man to net the winner.
LCN Verdict: Chelsea to win 1-0