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Sep 23, 2017 at 3pm UK
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Preview: Stoke City vs. Chelsea

:Headline: Preview: Stoke City vs. Chelsea:
Sports Mole previews Saturday afternoon's Premier League meeting between Stoke City and Chelsea at the bet365 Stadium.
By , Senior Reporter | 1y

Chelsea will look to get back to winning ways in the Premier League when they head to the Potteries to take on Stoke City on Saturday afternoon.

The Blues were held to a goalless draw by Arsenal last weekend, but they have won five of their last six in all competitions and boast a good record against this weekend's opponents.

Stoke City

Five points from a possible 15 to begin the season may look underwhelming, but Stoke boss Mark Hughes was quick to point out following the 2-1 defeat to Newcastle United last weekend that his side have been dealt a tough hand.

The Welshman has a point, having seen his side begin their home campaign with games against Arsenal and Manchester United, as well as travelling to an Everton side buoyed by their summer spending on the opening day.

It has been in those tricky home fixtures from which City have picked up their best results, though, thanks to a 1-0 victory over Arsenal on August 19 and a 2-2 draw against Manchester United in front of their supporters a fortnight ago.

Stoke are therefore the only team to halt joint-leaders United on their charge to the summit, but the defeat at St James' Park last time out in the league, coupled with another limp exit from the EFL Cup, has left a sour taste in the mouth.

While Hughes is deserving of some sympathy as he prepares to welcome another of the heavyweight sides to the bet365 Stadium this weekend, the experienced boss will also know that he is already under a bit of pressure following four games without a win.

The Potters took eight games to surpass the five-point mark last season, however, having endured a torrid run of form that saw Hughes's job called into question before slowly pulling away from danger.

Stoke have also managed to find the net in seven of their last eight league games stretching back into last season, boosted by the free signing of Cameroon international Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, who netted twice in that four-goal draw against United.

Choupo-Moting is already forming a good attacking partnership with Xherdan Shaqiri to give Hughes further hope of better things to come, with the duo combining to create nine goalscoring opportunities so far this term - bettered only by Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen at Tottenham Hotspur.

Recent form in Premier League: LWDDL
Recent form (all competitions): WWDDLL


Chelsea's goalless draw with Arsenal last weekend was a rarity in more ways than one, as they failed to beat their London rivals on home soil for the first time in five years, while also being shut out for the first time at home under Antonio Conte.

The Gunners are the only side to keep the Blues' attackers quiet this term, though, with exactly two goals being scored in each of their previous four league fixtures, as well as a combined 11 against Qarabag and Nottingham Forest in the Champions League and EFL Cup respectively.

Conte is clearly not concerned about summer signing Alvaro Morata stepping up to the plate and building on what has been a decent enough start to life in English football, having agreed to sell AWOL striker Diego Costa to Atletico Madrid in the New Year following their falling out at the end of last season.

The bigger issue right now regards discipline, as David Luiz became the third Chelsea player to see red in the space of five league games - as many sendings-off as their previous 73 games - while Victor Moses and Pedro were also dismissed in the FA Cup final and Community Shield.

All in all it has been a mixed start to the campaign for the defending champions; initially they put their shock 3-2 opening-game defeat to Burnley behind them with three league wins on the spin - including a 2-1 triumph away to Tottenham Hotspur - but that stalemate with Arsenal has very much halted them in their tracks.

With Man United and Manchester City scoring goals and winning games for fun, there is now pressure on the Blues to pick up victory when they travel to the Potteries this weekend, requiring just one more point to hit the milestone 1,8000 during the Premier League era.

That will put them in a band alongside Arsenal (1,829) and Man United (2,034), and if their recent away form is anything to go by then Conte should be left smiling come teatime on Saturday evening, with seven wins in the bag from the last eight on their travels.

Chelsea have a tricky week ahead prior to the international break, also taking on Man City and Atletico Madrid in two defining fixtures at home and in Europe, but for now all focus will simply be on getting the job done against a stubborn opponent.

Recent form in Premier League: LWWWD
Recent form (all competitions): WWWWDW

Team News

Hughes could have a defensive headache of sorts this weekend as Kurt Zouma misses out due to the stipulations of his season-long loan deal from Chelsea, while Ryan Shawcross is battling with a back problem.

The hosts have a number of players confirmed out for Saturday afternoon's clash, with Julian Ngoy, Stephen Ireland, Ibrahim Afellay, Geoff Cameron and Jakob Haugaard having to watch on from the stands.

After making mass changes to his side for the midweek defeat at Ashton Gate, Hughes is expected to revert back to his strongest possible XI, which will likely mean Jese Rodriguez leading the line ahead of creative talents Choupo-Moting and Shaqiri.

Chelsea are without Luiz in the heart of defence as he sits out the second of a three-match ban, meaning that Andreas Christensen - and not summer recruit Antonio Rudiger - will get a run in the side.

Danny Drinkwater remains out with a calf strain, meanwhile, and Pedro is also suffering from a knock sustained against Arsenal, so Eden Hazard - slowly getting back to full fitness after getting another 90 minutes under his belt against Forest - is almost certain to partner Willian in attack alongside Morata.

Conte is expected to go with a powerful central midfield pairing of Tiemoue Bakayoko and N'Golo Kante, but if further creativity is required then Cesc Fabregas - with seven career assists against the Potters - is the man who will be called upon.

Stoke City possible starting lineup:
Butland; Martins Indi, Shawcross, Wimmer; Diouf, Allen, Fletcher, Pieters; Shaqiri, Choupo-Moting; Jese

Chelsea possible starting lineup:
Courtois; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Cahill; Zappacosta, Bakayoko, Kante, Alonso; Willian, Hazard; Morata

Head To Head

Chelsea are unbeaten in 19 of their last 22 meetings with Stoke City in all competitions, most recently earning a 2-1 win when the two sides faced off in March to move 13 points clear at the league summit.

The Potters picked up a 1-0 victory on home soil the season prior, though, while also coming out on top on penalties when they met in the EFL Cup a month beforehand.

Overall, the West London outfit have won 47 of their 109 encounters against City, with each of their defeats in this fixture since the turn of the century coming away from home.

We say: Stoke City 1-3 Chelsea

Stoke have had a mixed start to the campaign in terms of league form, leaving their best results for the big matches against Arsenal and Man United. After claiming four points from six in those two fixtures they will likely give Chelsea something to think about this weekend, but the Blues are champions for a reason and have the knack of quickly bouncing back under Conte.

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