Match Preview: Stoke City vs Chelsea

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Updated: March 17, 2017
Manchester United vs Chelsea

Though it’s not a Tuesday night, Chelsea’s trip to Stoke-on-Trent to face Mark Hughes’ Stoke City at the bet365 Stadium will be no walk in the park. Stoke are notoriously difficult to play at home and, despite Chelsea’s recent form, tomorrow’s fixture will be a challenge. Hughes’ men are unbeaten in their last eight home matches, winning four and drawing the rest.

Chelsea’s road performances have been impressive, their most recent being a defeat of West Ham at the Olympic Stadium and, before that, a shutout of Wolverhampton Wanderers at Molineux. The last match they lost on the road came in the first week of January to Tottenham. In Stoke’s most recent fixture, they held a frustrated Manchester City to a draw at the Etihad, and did similarly when Everton and Manchester United visited the bet365, so the Potters won’t be awestruck by the league leaders.

In his pre-match press conference, Antonio Conte asserted that Stoke City, despite being a physical side, do possess solid technical players. He also praised the work of former Blue Mark Hughes, who has coached them to within striking distance of a Europa League place, producing some impressive results along the way.

In response to a question about referees protecting creative players like Eden Hazard, Conte made sure to point out that his team wants to play football and, while he understands that fouls are a part of the game, he doesn’t appreciate teams who try to control the match by consistently fouling. In recent years, Stoke have earned a reputation for being heavy in the tackle, but Mark Hughes has received praise for his positive approach, effectively transforming the Potters and raising their level in the eyes of many.

Team News

Though several reports indicated that Victor Moses was nursing an injury this week, Conte confirmed that he had been training, and training well, in the past few days. However, he mentioned that he would need to ‘check a few situations and then make a decision.’ This could simply be a smokescreen for Mark Hughes, as the Italian likes to keep his starting XI choices close to the chest. Photos have emerged of Moses participating in training, so there’s likely little truth to the rumors about him picking up a knock.

Besides that, Conte will have a full team to choose from. The lack of European competition has once again allowed the Blues a full five days of rest and training, and it would be odd if any of the usual suspects don’t get a start. Pedro, who was relegated to the bench in favor of Willian in our FA Cup Quarterfinal against Manchester United, will likely be among tomorrow’s starters.

Mark Hughes will be without Stephen Ireland and Jack Butland, while Glen Johnson could be a game-time decision. Mame Biram Diouf and Xherdan Shaqiri should both be back in the first team after brief spells out due to injury. When Chelsea hosted Stoke City at Stamford Bridge, Peter Crouch started and was particularly effective, finishing off an assist from Diouf at the near post to equalize before the Blues closed the door on the visitor’s inspired comeback.

Prediction

Chelsea have been the Premier League’s form team for months. Despite dropping points away to Liverpool and Burnley, they haven’t lost since the turn of the year and look destined to finish the season atop the pile. Antonio Conte won’t suffer a lapse in concentration and he’s been the picture of measured confidence in every pre and post-match press conference.

Stoke City’s impressive performance at the Etihad will surely buoy them ahead of the Blues’ visit, so I’d expect a tough match for the full 90 minutes. My prediction – 2-1 Chelsea.

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