Chelsea v Stoke
April 4 @ 5.30pm
Chelsea will be vying for a nine-point lead over Premier League title rivals Manchester City when they host Stoke City today.
The defending champions don’t play until Monday, providing the current league leaders a chance to apply more pressure to a City side that is struggling for form.
Chelsea have also recently gone off the boil, picking up three consecutive draws at Stamford Bridge although still maintaining their undefeated record at home this season.
Stoke however have failed to score in six of their last seven league meetings with Chelsea and have lost their last eight visits to the Bridge – last scoring there in January 2009.
Those statistics will give confidence to a Chelsea side who are still searching for a second wind to see out the end of a season likely to result in their first league title since 2010.
Their recent dip in form is accredited by some to a lack of depth in their squad, a point backed up by the fact that John Terry, Branislav Ivanovic and Eden Hazard have all started every league game this season.
Loic Remy went some way to quashing those theories after scoring the winner from the bench in Chelsea’s most recent game against Hull.
He came on for the injured Diego Costa, who is expected to return to the fold after pulling out of Spain’s international games to recover.
Chelsea’s past form after international breaks is another positive for Jose Mourinho’s side, having won each of their returning games after the previous three breaks this season.
Despite losing his last two games, Stoke boss and former Blue Mark Hughes will be buoyed by signing a new contract with his club, which will keep him in charge until 2019.
He will be without this season’s star performer, Victor Moses, who is ineligible to play against his parent club, however top scorer Jonathan Walters should be fit after suffering a knock.
Stoke forward Peter Crouch will be looking to poach more points for his side after his current seven league goals have earned nine points, compared to Costa’s 19 goals only earning eight.
Star man: Diego Costa
Danger man: Jonathan Walters
Last meeting: Stoke 0-2 Chelsea, December 22 2014 @ Britannia Stadium
Picture courtesy of Brent Flanders, with thanks