Sat 22 Sep 2012 15:00 (Attendance: 41,112)
The second of a trilogy of home games is nearly upon us as Italian opposition is replaced by the team from the Potteries. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton watch the wheel turn…
From defending champions to unbeaten league leaders as we seamlessly switch competitions. This weekend's opponents have had a blank week in which to prepare while Chelsea suffered the disappointment of surrendering a two-goal lead against a very good Juventus side.
That result means Roberto Di Matteo's team have not won in three matches, though Chelsea are six points better off compared to the corresponding Barclays Premier League games in 2011/12, with three clean sheets where last season there were none.
The manager will be concerned that lapses in concentration are hurting the Blues at present, and Stoke are fully licensed members of the awkward squad. However, Chelsea have won all four Premier League meetings with them at the Bridge, notching up 12 goals to the Potters' one.
Running over from last season, Chelsea have won five of the last six league matches at the Bridge, and avenged the only loss, against Newcastle, in the most recent of those.
Oscars night is usually at the end of February. Understandably, though, spectators and reporters went wild about his display on Wednesday night: his clam job on Pirlo almost as creditable as that sensational second goal. Surely the debutant's strike ranks among the best goals witnessed in our 107-year-old stadium.
As one supporter put it: the young Brazilian has nothing to declare but his genius. Shame his night ended after a callous stamp by Leonardi Bonucci that went unpunished. UEFA may choose to re-examine the incident and act accordingly.
Only Arsenal have conceded fewer league goals than Chelsea's two.
This weekend's match against Stoke is the second 'traditional' 3pm Saturday league kick-off in a row. The last time that happened was, by coincidence, when the same club visited the Bridge in March.
Chelsea's fixtures list remains congested with weekend league and midweek cup games until the international break in early October.
When the home clash with Norwich on 6 October is over the Blues will already have played 12 matches, one more than Manchester City, two more than the likes of Arsenal and Manchester United, and four more than Stoke.
Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City have not yet faced a team from the top half of the table. The latter two play each other this weekend.
Barclays Premier League fixtures
Swansea v Everton 12.45pm - Sky Sports
Chelsea v Stoke 3pm
Southampton v Aston Villa 3pm
West Brom v Reading 3pm
West Ham v Sunderland 3pm
Wigan v Fulham 3pm
Liverpool v Manchester United 1.30pm - Sky Sports
Newcastle v Norwich 3pm
Manchester City v Arsenal 4pm - Sky Sports
|Barclays Premier League table top 12|
Completing the look ahead to this weekend's game at the Bridge, club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton are joined by ex-player Clive Walker…
Can Chelsea return to winning ways against a stubborn Stoke side who have already stifled Manchester City and Arsenal this season? Here are the views of former Blues winger Clive Walker.
'After three games without a win Robbie Di Matteo will be pressing for a win to keep us top of the table.
'You saw again in midweek that we are changing as a team and there are usually teething problems during a transition. Some of our forward play has been terrific, really exciting. Stoke will be aiming to stop us play first and foremost though.
'I'm interested by Tony Pulis's signings the last few seasons. You see the likes of Charlie Adam, Steven Nzonzi and Michael Owen being brought in and you think that's a long way from the type of player they used a few years back, the ones who were tall and very dangerous in the box from long throws.
'That served them well and Pulis deserves credit for seeing the bigger picture and the game has changed - Rory Delap wasn't going to last forever.
'He has gradually added players who can pass to the usual mix of direct football and strength at set plays. He is looking for quick wide players to put the ball into the box.
'Peter Crouch has still been their most effective player this season, scoring half of their league goals. They have scored just four, though, which is possibly where their main problem lies.
'They have drawn all three Premier League games so far, and plenty of managers will tell you "it's the draws that hurt you" - losing one then winning one gives you three points, whereas two draws bring just two.
'Owen has obviously been brought in to add goals, but the one minute he had as a sub against Man City last weekend is his only competitive action this calendar year. From that standpoint I cannot see him starting at the Bridge.
'With any Pulis team, though, you always know you will have to work hard to earn the right to play your football. City and Arsenal found that out and dropped two points at the Britannia. Each of Mancini's men probably cost four times what their opposite number did, but Stoke are well organised and physically and mentally strong.
'While 1-1 against the champions was a great result for Stoke they are a different proposition on the road compared with at home.Their supporters are immense, a real strength.
'I think at what is a tough ground for them they will look first and foremost at how to stifle Eden Hazard and Juan Mata, who both looked bright and inventive against Juventus. Tony Pulis knows to have a chance of taking anything away from this match he's got to stop us playing.
'We saw with Oscar what a talent he is for the future. He is looking so bright, but it will take a lot for that to happen every week, especially against sides like Stoke. This will be a tough, tough match.
'In previous years Stoke have set themselves out in a 4-4-2 formation, meaning we had the extra body in midfield. But with those new midfielders they have been playing 4-5-1 with Crouch alone upfront recently. They usually adopt a safety-first approach away from home and would be delighted with another draw.
'I still think with the attacking midfielders we have we can hurt them in the final third and cause problems for their centre-backs with our quick passing and movement.
'Andy Wilkinson is suspended after video evidence of him elbowing Balotelli, and he had been one of Pulis's real ever-presents. He has a few replacements available, such as the American lad Geoff Cameron, or switching Robert Huth, the former Chelsea centre-back. He may be loath to break up the central partnership of Huth and Ryan Shawcross (pictured below), though, because they've looked pretty solid so far this season. It could be an issue for them.
'I think Robbie Di Matteo will want to freshen things up again on Saturday. You have to say the surprise choice of putting Oscar on Pirlo was an absolutely inspired one and worked a treat, but we have to see if the young man is fit after a nasty stamp on his ankle. What a goal that second one was! He gave the whole ground a lift and was a joy to watch throughout.
'I wonder whether Victor Moses might be given his home debut after he did so well as a sub at QPR. You'd like to think he could take on their full-backs and shake things up.
'We may start with Ryan Bertrand again - he links so well down the left where Wilkinson would usually be.
'If they do come to defend it's important we have the potential to change things around upfront, so I hope Danny Sturridge is fit. Other than that it's about patience: I doubt this will be a high scoring affair.
'We have been making a few costly errors in defensive midfield and at the back and I wonder if Robbie will try a few different options there too. He may think Gary Cahill, against a big team like Stoke, could provide a little more solidity.
'You always want to have some height where possible against Stoke though, because they still are a force at set plays even though the long throws are pretty much a thing of the past.
'Another clean sheet would be nice - and I think if we achieve that we scoop all three points.'
Marko Marin is close to a return to the squad following his hamstring trouble but this game comes too soon. Daniel Sturridge is a doubt having missed the Juventus game due to a tight hamstring. Oscar has recovered from the knock he received midweek.
Stoke midfielder Jamie Ness could return from a groin injury. Andy Wilkinson is banned.
WE HAVE HISTORY
This weekend Chelsea are looking to extend our unbeaten league run against Stoke to 13 games.
Three seasons ago they were the visitors a week after a disappointing defeat at White Hart Lane had threatened to derail our title charge. John Terry was suspended as a result of a red card against Spurs, and the unfamiliar centre-back pairing of Branislav Ivanovic and Alex, would have to cope with Stoke's expected aerial assault.
Instead a dogged but lack-lustre City side lost their skipper Abdoulaye Faye early on and Salomon Kalou headed in the first of a hat-trick midway through the first half. Soon after the Ivorian had added a second he collided with goalie Thomas Sorensen, who had to be replaced by Asmir Begovic.
The Bosnian had been a rumoured target of Chelsea, but his 'audition' did not go well. He was sent the wrong way by Frank Lampard from spot just before half-time, then only parried Kalou's shot, allowing the striker to make it 4-0. Lampard again, Daniel Sturridge and Florent Malouda completed the seven-goal rout. The Blues went on to win the Double.
This fixture was first played in Division One 90 years ago this month. That season most matches were played as 'pairs' back-to-back, and the Pensioners had won at the Victoria Ground a week earlier.
A tight return at the Bridge exploded into life when first Harry Wilding's long-range shot eluded Potters goalie Leslie Scott, and two minutes later top scorer Jimmy Broad equalised with a low shot.
Jack Cock turned in a Chelsea corner early in the second half and almost added to the lead shortly after, hitting a post and injuring an ankle in the process. While he was off the field receiving treatment Buchanan Sharp converted a pass from winger Harry Ford.
Late on, Ben Baker (more famous for scoring a penalty for Chelsea) was beaten from the spot by Broad to make the final score 3-2.
Back to modern times and Stoke's last victory against the Blues was at Stamford Bridge in 1995 in the League Cup second round when Paul Peschisolido scored the only goal.
The Potters' last league victory against us was 37 years ago on April 5th 1975 in the old First Division. City won 3-0 at the Victoria Ground with goals from Terry Conroy (2) and Jimmy Greenhoff.
Ray Wilkins was in the Chelsea team when the Potters last won a league game at Stamford Bridge in April 1974. Alan Hudson scored the only goal against his old club.
The last time Stoke came away from the Bridge with a point was in December 1984. Kerry Dixon and Paul Dyson scored the goals in a 1-1 draw.
Our last 10 league meetings at Stamford Bridge
1971/72 - Chelsea won 2-0 - Division One
1972/73 - Stoke won 3-1 - Division One
1973/74 - Stoke won 1-0 - Division One
1974/75 - Drew 3-3 - Division One
1984/85 - Drew 1-1 - Division One
1988/89 - Chelsea won 2-1 - Division Two
2008/09 - Chelsea won 2-1 - Premier League
2009/10 - Chelsea won 7-0 - Premier League
2010/11 - Chelsea won 2-0 - Premier League
2011/12 - Chelsea won 1-0 - Premier League
Other match last season
14 August 2011 Premier League
Chelsea v Stoke in all competitions
Games played 87
Chelsea wins 39
Stoke wins 27
Head to head in the League at Stamford Bridge
Games played 38
Chelsea wins 21
Stoke wins 7
Biggest league win at Stamford Bridge for each team
Chelsea 7-0 Stoke City - 25/04/2010
Chelsea 2-5 Stoke City - 12/10/1946
Visit tomorrow for more briefing.
Chelsea have won 11 of our last 13 games at Stamford Bridge. Newcastle are the only team to have won here in that time, with Tottenham gaining a point in a goalless draw.
|Last six results|
|Aug 19||Wigan (a)||W 2-0|
|Aug 22||Reading (h)||W 4-2|
|Aug 25||Newcastle (h)||W 2-0|
|Aug 31||Atlético Madrid (Uefa Super Cup)||L 1-4|
|Sep 15||QPR (a)||D 0-0|
|Sep 19||Juventus (Champions League h)||D 2-2|
Premier League scorers
Ivanovic 2, Lampard 2 (2 pens), Torres 2, Cahill 1, Hazard 1 (pen). Total 8.
League games since
A home win: 0
A home draw: 6
A home defeat: 3
|Chelsea's next three games|
|Tue 25 Sep||Wolves (Capital One Cup) home||7.45pm|
|Sat 29 Sep||Arsenal away||12.45pm|
|Tue 2 Oct||Nordsjælland (Champions League) away||7.45pm|
Frank Lampard is one goal away from equalling our all-time league scorer in top-flight matches Bobby Tambling with 129 goals. He is currently level with Roy Bentley with 128.
John Terry needs one goal to reach 50 in all competitions for the Blues.
Congratulations to Oriol Romeu who celebrates his 21st birthday on Monday.
1 League Cup in 1972
Stoke's best seasons in the top flight were in 1935/36 and 1946/47 when they finished fourth. The Potters last and only major trophy was the League Cup in 1972 when as underdogs; they defeated Chelsea 2-1 at Wembley.
The Potters have only won one of the 16 games in all competitions since they lost at Stamford Bridge in March. They haven't won an away Barclays Premier League game since their 2-1 victory at Blackburn on 2 January.
Stoke have drawn eight of their last 10 league matches.
They have only gained three points from the last 18 available away from The Britannia Stadium.
Manager Tony Pulis
Days in charge: 2,291
Potters' last 10 year league history
|2002/03||50||21st||League Division One||2|
|2003/04||66||11th||League Division One||2|
|This season to date|
|Aug 18||Reading (a)||D 1-1|
|Aug 26||Arsenal (h)||D 0-0|
|Aug 28||Swindon (League Cup 2)||L 3-4|
|Sep 1||Wigan (a)||D 2-2|
|Sep 15||Manchester City (h)||D 1-1|
Premier League scorers
Crouch 2, Kightly 1, Walters 1 (pen). Total 4.
League games since
An away win: 11
An away draw: 0
An away defeat: 2
Ins Charlie Adam (Liverpool, £4m), Michael Kightly (Wolves, £2m), Geoff Cameron (Houston Dynamo, undisclosed), Maurice Edu (Rangers, undisclosed), Jamie Ness (Rangers, free), Steven Nzonzi (Blackburn, undisclosed), Michael Owen (unattached).
Outs Jonathan Woodgate (Middlesbrough, free), Danny Collins (Nottingham Forest, undisclosed), Florent Cuvelier (Walsall, loan), Ryan Brunt (Leyton Orient, loan), Andrew Davies (Bradford City, free), Salif Diao (released), Ricardo Fuller (Charlton, free), Louis Moult (Northampton, free), Thomas Soares (released).
THE MAN IN THE MIDDLE
Twenty-seven-year-old Michael Oliver is refereeing his second Chelsea match. His first was the match against Bolton at Stamford Bridge last season.
Stoke's Andy Wilkinson is suspended (first of three matches).
No content here, yet.
Ashley Cole's first goal since May 2010 was enough to send the Blues back to winning ways as he scored late on to settle a keenly fought contest.
The left-back's previous strike had been an icing-on-the-cake moment on the day we won the league by thumping Wigan. This time his effort made the difference between one point and all three and in the context of this season, it could have immense value.
As in previous home games this season, Roberto Di Matteo's men produced some very watchable football but mostly in spells only and Stoke came closest to scoring in the first half when they hit the woodwork. The visitors couldn't create any moment so dangerous after the break against an improved Chelsea who had rested big players, but after Oscar had gone close and substitutions had been made, we beat the clock with one of the best moves of the game.
With this game the middle one of three in a seven-day spell, Di Matteo rotated his side with John Terry and Frank Lampard both starting on the bench. Gary Cahill came into defence and Juan Mata returned to midfield for his first game of September. Oscar retained his place. Petr Cech was captain.
Stoke made one change. Geoff Cameron replaces suspended Andy Wilkinson at right-back.
Both teams won a corner in the first five minutes but it was not until Mata knocked over Chelsea's second corner of the game on six minutes that an attempt on goal was made. Torres, who had earlier not made the most of a promising counter-attack, headed over.
On 12 minutes, Hazard fired in a corner from the opposite side and the locks of the flying David Luiz were not too far away from making an important contact at the near post.
Stoke had some good moments, winning their fair share of midfield contests, but Chelsea were looking the brighter on a sunny afternoon. Mikel played a disguised pass that gave Oscar the chance to square the ball into the six-yard box but that was cleared.
The Potters' threat from set-pieces was never going to be underestimated but Chelsea were left chasing red and white shirts when Glenn Whelan delivered a peach of a dipping free-kick into our box that Jonathan Walters met first, heading over Cech but thankfully against the crossbar.
On 22 minutes Chelsea had a penalty appeal turned down when Ivanovic found himself playing as a temporary centre-forward and contact was made with Cameron, but it never looked likely to impress referee Michael Oliver, who removed his yellow card from his pocket for the first time soon after. Charlie Adam had more-or-less rugby tackled Ramires.
On 25 minutes, Mata produced a moment of inspiration to spot a Torres run and float the ball over the defence. His compatriot brought it down on his chest but then couldn't connect with his boot. Had Torres's best chance to score this game already passed?
David Luiz fired a 28th minute free-kick on target but it was comfortable for the extremely fluorescent Amir Begovic.
Ten minutes later, Cech couldn't hold a Kightly header as he dropped to the deck to save it, Chelsea having been opened up down our left - but Cahill was on hand to clear upfield.
The Blues put pressure on in the final minutes of the half; Ivanovic almost burst through to shoot and Hazard craftily teeing up Cole for a cross, but Tony Pulis would probably have been pleased at the whistle with the scoreline and his team's showing so far.
The run of not getting penalty decisions continued soon after the restart, this time Oscar the man going down but the contact was not sufficient to convince the ref it wasn't a dive, and our young Brazilian was booked.
He tested Begovic soon after who had to dive to keep out a shot before Mata got his sights wrong in attempting to find the top corner. Instead he found the Matthew Harding lower tier, many rows back. Chelsea at least were pressing Stoke back deep into their half, although the visitors did make it upfield to win a corner that Crouch, challenged by David Luiz, couldn't quite reach.
The Blues were flattering to deceive with some quick passing moves in the Stoke half that were consistently failing to turn into chances.
On the hour, Victor Moses was brought on in place of Hazard to pose Stoke a different set of problems. Moments later Pulis introduced Michael Owen for Charlie Adam. The former England marksman lined up deeper than Crouch.
It is often said that it's the shots not caught cleanly that catch keepers out, and that was almost the case after Oscar showed great control to worm his way into space. Stamford Bridge anticipated another rocket but instead the attempt was a grasscutter that took a slight defection. Begovic only just kept it out.
A Chelsea goal looked on the cards more than at any time in the game. Oscar clipped a shot just wide.
On 76 minutes it was Mikel the man who continued his run and was found by a very good first-time pass by Torres. Cutting inside a defender before lining up to shoot, the Nigerian was denied a magical moment when his effort was blocked.
Two minutes later and Chelsea survived a shot through a crowd and just wide of our far post from substitute Matthew Etherington after Kenwyne Jones had kept alive an over-hit cross.
With 10 minutes left on the clock, Lampard was sent on - Mikel making way. The vice-captain was involved in the move that finally broke the deadlock, playing a simple pass to Moses who knocked the ball first-time to Ivanovic ahead. The Serbian crossed low and Mata's contribution was crucial - a little backheel that ran into the path of Cole for a close-range chip into the net, but only after it clipped the head of the keeper.
Etherington made a lung-busting covering run to deny Moses as the former Wigan man, playing for the first time at the Bridge, charged half the length of the pitch towards goal.
However Cole's goal was enough, the game ending in bad-tempered fashion after David Luiz had been booked for catching Walters with a studs-up challenge.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech (c); Ivanovic, Cahill, David Luiz, Cole; Ramires, Mikel (Lampard 81); Mata (Terry 88), Oscar, Hazard (Moses 61); Torres.
Unused subs Turnbull, Azpilicueta, Bertrand, Romeu.
Scorer Cole 84.
Booked Oscar 50, David Luiz 90+2.
Stoke (4-2-3-1): Begovic; Cameron, Shawcross (c), Huth, Wilson; Nzonzi, Whelan; Walters, Adam (Owen 63), Kightly (Etherington 71); Crouch (Jones 75).
Unused subs Sorensen, Upson, Shotton, Whitehead.
Booked Adam 23
Referee Michael Oliver