Sat 07 Dec 2013 15:00 (Attendance: 25,154)
The red-and-white-striped opposition keep coming as Chelsea seek a fourth straight league win. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton look at the prospects in the Potteries…
Sunderland had enjoyed a 100 per cent record in their previous three home games under Gustavo Poyet before the Blues' pulsating 4-3 win there, which made it nine on the spin at the Stadium of Light.
More quirkily, it was also the 13th straight win against teams beginning with 'S' for JoséeMourinho, once infamous for a cup final 'Sssssh'. Perhaps the win will hush some of the critics who suggested the cosmopolitan Blues will not like it up 'em on a cold night up north. Such a showing is timely ahead of the imminent meetings with Stoke, Steaua and Sunderland again.
Chelsea's manager hailed the midweek victory as by far the best team performance away from home this season - other than 'three ridiculous goals' from poorly-defended set plays.
Former Blues hero Poyet joined the Portuguese in lavishing praise on one of his successors at Stamford Bridge, Eden Hazard, who earned a few 10-out-of-10 ratings with two goals, an assist and countless other exhilarating moments. The challenge for the brilliant Belgian - still only 22, remember - is to hit such heights consistently.
Even that, though, falls short of an individual display in Chelsea's 4-0 triumph at Stoke last season. Jon Walters' two own goals, missed penalty and volley into his own face will take some eclipsing.
The Blues are salvaging points yet again this season. There are two ways that can change: stop going behind, or stop turning it around.
The set-piece defending on Wednesday would have had former Potters boss Tony Pulis salivating, but he is now at Crystal Palace and must wait a week to deploy his tactics at the Bridge. His successor, another former Chelsea legend, Mark Hughes, takes a more circuitous route to goal.
The Potters have managed just five goals in seven games at the Britannia Stadium this campaign and only Arsenal have a better record in the last five away games than Chelsea's three wins, one draw and one defeat.
Yet the three attacking midfielders will have to be at their creative best against the obdurate hosts on Saturday - Mark Hughes's side have conceded once in the last four home matches. Stoke season ticket holders have witnessed just eight league goals this term, the fewest of any in the top flight.
Chelsea's win rate of 73 per cent against Hughes as a manager is slightly lower than against his predecessor. As a player he was one of true greats whose arrival transformed our club in the 1990s, and no game contribution captures that impact better than the 4-2 FA Cup triumph over Liverpool in 1997.
Hughes was the proud possessor of a Peter Bonetti Chelsea kit as a child and in a week of reunions it will be good to see him and back-to-back Premier League champion Robert Huth, who is unfortunately recuperating from surgery at present.
Both enjoyed the FA Cup at Chelsea. Huth scored one of his two goals for the club in the competition and Hughes won it in 1997. The draw for the third round of this season's Cup takes place on Sunday, live on ITV1, after the Tamworth v Bristol City match, around 4.10pm.
The Blues have the chance to close the gap behind leaders Arsenal to a single point on Saturday as the Gunners host in-form Everton on Sunday. The Toffees have drawn on two of their last four Emirates visits.
Man City travel to Southampton, the venue last season for an error-strewn performance that led to a 1-3 defeat - Mauricio Pochettino's first win with Saints.
Barclays Premier League fixtures
Manchester United v Newcastle 12.45pm - BT Sport
Crystal Palace v Cardiff 3pm
Liverpool v West Ham 3pm
Southampton v Manchester City 3pm
Stoke v Chelsea 3pm
West Brom v Norwich 3pm
Sunderland v Tottenham 5.30pm - Sky Sports
Fulham v Aston Villa 1.30pm - Sky Sports
Arsenal v Everton 4pm - Sky Sports
Swansea v Hull 8pm - Sky Sports
|Barclays Premier League top eight|
- Click on tabs above for more briefing,
Chelsea have managed to prevent Stoke scoring in seven of our last eight encounters in all competitions and have won 10 of the most recent 12. Another victory this weekend would close the gap at the top to one point for a day at least.
Jose Mourinho was delighted with every aspect of his team's performance at Sunderland except the most basic: defending corners and free-kicks. A series of failures to clear the danger prefaced all three goals conceded.
As a result, despite the four goals scored there were plenty of tired legs on the field at the end of Wednesday's match. Samuel Eto'o and possibly Oscar are available again after their respective groin and ankle problems. Ashley Cole, Ryan Bertrand and Kevin De Bruyne plus late midweek substitutes Andre Schurrle and John Mikel Obi can be added to the list of possible starters in the Potteries.
Chelsea have scored from set-plays seven times this season and that could again be profitable this weekend. One of Stoke's hangovers from the Pulis era is a tendency to commit fouls in problematic areas - their players have also been booked 32 times, a Premier League high, with right-back Geoff Cameron (pictured below) the worst offender.
However they also remain strong in the air (despite conceding from set-pieces), and use direct balls to the flanks to break quickly through wingers Matthew Etherington or Oussama Assaidi on the left, or Marko Arnautovic or Jon Walters on the opposite flank.
Upfront a decent understanding has developed between Peter Crouch and the no.10 behind him, Charlie Adam. However, the red mist that has engulfed the career of Stoke's current leading scorer came down again on Wednesday, when Adam pushed over Cardiff striker Fraizer Campbell despite already having one yellow to his name on the night. He was not booked again.
Crouch, of course, presents a uniquely awkward attacking threat in the box. In most other areas of the field when the ball is flung in to him Chelsea have generally stood off the 6ft 7in forward, now 32, and aimed to intercept the flicks and knock-downs he likes to try. Kenwyne Jones is not a regular starter under Hughes.
Cardiff defended tenaciously at Stoke in the 0-0 midweek stalemate but either side might have scored with better finishing or fortune. Hughes has admitted he would like to rejuvenate his attack during the January transfer window but only with the right person and on a tight budget.
Hughes will have been concerned by fluid attacking shown by Chelsea at Sunderland, especially two-goal Eden Hazard who Gustavo Poyet afterwards described as 'unplayable'. Juan Mata again contributed strongly and Frank Lampard took Chelsea's individual goalscoring record to 208.
The same back four has figured in the last four unbeaten league matches, but there is the possibility of a return for Ashley Cole, who last started at Newcastle.
WE HAVE HISTORY
Chelsea are looking to extend our unbeaten league run against Stoke to 15 games. We have won three and drawn two of our league games at the Britannia Stadium.
This fixture was first played in August 1922, a 2-1 win for the visitors thanks to an early brace from inside-left Buchanan Sharp. The Scot also netted the winner in the reverse fixture, a 3-2 game in London a few weeks later.
Our 4-0 away success last season was the biggest in our history at Stoke. Prior to that the best had been 25 years and four days ago on 3 December 1988, when manager Bobby Campbell was driving the Blues towards promotion from Division Two.
Chelsea won despite being a man down for over 50 minutes, midfielder Peter Nicholas having been sent off for a supposed head-butt of Simon Stainrod in the opening minutes. Almost immediately after that skipper Graham Roberts opened the scoring from the spot.
Stainrod, formerly of QPR, was himself shown a second yellow just before the hour mark for going in late. Clive Wilson (pictured below), generally a left-back but excelling on the wing, added a second goal five minutes earlier. With the visitors breaking through at will, pacy Kevin McAllister completed the 3-0 win.
Stoke's last league win against us was 38 years ago on 5 April 1975 in the old First Division. City won 3-0 at the Victoria Ground with goals from Terry Conroy (2) and Jimmy Greenhoff.
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.
Our last 10 league games at Stoke
1972/73 - Drew 1-1 - Old Division 1
1973/74 - Stoke won 1-0 - Old Division 1
1974/75 - Stoke won 3-0 - Old Division 1
1984/85 - Chelsea won 1-0 - Old Division 1
1988/89 - Chelsea won 3-0 - Old Division 2
2008/09 - Chelsea won 2-0 - Premier League
2009/10 - Chelsea won 2-1 - Premier League
2010/11 - Drew 1-1 - Premier League
2011/12 - Drew 0-0 - Premier League
2012/13 - Chelsea won 4-0 - Premier League
Other match last season
22 September 2012 Barclays Premier League
Chelsea v Stoke in all competitions
Games played 89
Chelsea wins 41
Stoke wins 27
Head to head in the League at Victoria Ground and Britannia Stadium
Games played 39
Chelsea wins 16
Stoke wins 15
Biggest league win at Stoke for each team
Stoke 6-1 Chelsea 04/02/1939, 15/02/1947
Stoke 0-4 Chelsea - 12/01/2013
Chelsea failed to beat Stoke: 846
Stoke last beat Chelsea in the league:14,126
Arsenal won a trophy: 3,122
Liverpool won the league: 8,617
The Blues have won 11 points from a possible 21 away from Stamford Bridge this term.
Chelsea have not lost any of the seven games in which we have opened the scoring (six wins, one draw).
We have dropped just two points from winning positions this season.
|Last six results|
|Nov 6||Schalke (Champions League h)||W 3-0|
|Nov 9||West Brom (h)||D 2-2|
|Nov 23||West Ham (a)||W 3-0|
|Nov 26||Basel (Champions League a)||L 0-1|
|Dec 1||Southampton (h)||W 3-1|
|Dec 4||Sunderland (a)||W 4-3|
League games since
An away win: 0
An away draw: 4
An away defeat: 2
|Chelsea's next three games|
|Wed 11 Dec||Steaua Bucharest (Champions League) home||7.45pm|
|Sat 14 Dec||Crystal Palace home||3.00pm|
|Tue 17 Dec||Sunderland (Capital One Cup) away||7.45pm|
Petr Cech's next clean sheet will be his 150th in the Premier League.
Michael Essien's next league start will be his 150th.
Congratulations to captain John Terry who celebrates his 33rd birthday on the day of the match.
1 League Cup in 1972
Premier League - 13th
FA Cup - Fourth round
Capital One Cup - Second round
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.
Stoke have won three of their last 13 home league matches against Norwich last season, Crystal Palace and Sunderland.
The Potters have won one of their last 11 Premier League games.
They have won two points from six games against top-half teams this term.
Stoke have only conceded three goals in seven home Barclays Premier League games, that's one goal every three and a half hours.
The Potters have failed to score in 54 per cent of their last 13 home league matches.
Manager Mark Hughes
Days in charge: 191
|Potters' last 10 year league history|
|2003/04||66||11th||League Division One||2|
|Last six results|
|Oct 29||Birmingham (Capital One Cup a) won 4-2 on pens||D 4-4|
|Nov 2||Southampton (h)||D 1-1|
|Nov 10||Swansea (a)||D 3-3|
|Nov 23||Sunderland (h)||W 2-0|
|Nov 30||Everton (a)||L 0-4|
|Dec 4||Cardiff (h)||D 0-0|
Premier League scorers (12)
Adam 3 (1 pen), Arnautovic 1, Begovic 1, Cameron 1, Crouch 1, Ireland 1, Nzonzi 1, Pennant 1, Shawcross 1, Walters 1.
League games since
A home win: 1
A home draw: 0
A home defeat: 4
POTTERS MAJOR SUMMER MOVES AND AUTUMN LOANS
Ins Marko Arnautovic (Werder Bremen, £2m), Marc Muniesa (Barcelona, free), Erik Pieters (PSV Eindhoven, £3m), Oussama Assaidi (Liverpool, loan), Stephen Ireland (Aston Villa, loan).
Outs Rory Delap (Burton, free), Matthew Lund (Rochdale, free), Carlo Nash (Norwich, free), Michael Owen (retired), Mamady Sidibe (released, now CSKA Sofia), Matthew Upson (Brighton, free), Dean Whitehead (Middlesbrough, free), Jack Butland (Barnsley, loan), Ryan Shotton (Wigan, loan), Michael Kightly (Burnley, loan), Cameron Jerome, loan).
THE MAN IN THE MIDDLE
Jonathan Moss is the referee for his second Chelsea match this season. He was the official for our opening day 2-0 win against Hull at Stamford Bridge.
There are no suspensions.
Branislav Ivanovic is one domestic booking away from a suspension having received four yellow cards this season.
The Blues were beaten by a last-gasp Oussama Assaidi wonder strike at the Brittania Stadium, having taken an early lead in the game.
Andre Schurrle scored inside nine minutes, but while we dominated the opening 45 minutes for long periods, we were made to pay for missed chances three minutes before the break when Peter Crouch equalised from close range.
Five minutes into the second half Mark Hughes's side took the lead through Stephen Ireland, but we were back on terms within three minutes when Schurrle scored his second of the game - and third of the season - with a wonderful effort after Stoke had failed to clear a Juan Mata free-kick.
It was clear as the second half progressed that a piece of magic could prove decisive, and Assaidi intervened right at the death, condemning us to our third Premier League defeat of the season.
Jose Mourinho made two changes from the side which won 4-3 at Sunderland in midweek, with John Mikel Obi and Andre Schurrle coming in for Frank Lampard and Willian respectively, the Brazilian remaining in London due to illness. John Terry continued his run of starting every Premier League game this season on what was his 33rd birthday, while Cesar Azpilicueta was selected at left-back for the sixth game in a row. Juan Mata was handed a third successive start, with Schurrle named in the starting line-up for the first time since our 3-0 home win against Schalke. Fernando Torres once again led the line, with both Samuel Eto'o and Demba Ba on the bench.
Having scored 10 goals in our previous three Barclays Premier League matches, it was no surprise to see the Blues on the front foot early on, with Schurrle in particular looking alert and lively.
After the German had forced a corner inside the opening minute which ultimately came to nothing, he then produced the first real moment of quality, pouncing on a wayward ball in the Stoke half, driving to the byline and pulling it back into the path of Ramires, who fired over from a good position.
The warning signs were there for the hosts early on, and after only nine minutes we broke the deadlock.
Mikel picked the ball up just inside the Stoke half and played the ball forward into the feet of Schurrle, who took a touch before weaving in and out of Ryan Shawcross and firing a brilliant left-footed strike into the bottom corner.
It was a goal of the highest quality, and no more than Schurrle deserved for the positive manner in which he'd started the game.
The hosts were struggling to contain the movement of our attacking players in the final third, and moments later Mata saw his effort from the edge of the box, after Stoke had failed to deal with a Schurrle free-kick, well saved by Asmir Begovic.
Mark Hughes was forced to reshuffle his pack earlier then he would have hoped when Charlie Adam was forced out of the game with an injury, with Ireland replacing the midfielder after only 17 minutes.
Stoke, more often than not, were looking to utilise the aerial threat of Crouch once inside the Chelsea half, but Terry and Gary Cahill were more than standing up to the test during the opening exchanges.
Misplaced passes were a recurring theme for the home side during the opening 25 minutes, and from another one we almost doubled our lead. Mata reacted quickest to make the interception and fed Hazard; the Belgian rolled an inviting ball across the face of goal but there was a fraction too much pace on it for the advancing Torres.
Ramires was next to try his luck, but his curler, after being played in by an intelligent Schurrle pass, sailed high over the bar.
As the half-hour mark approached, Mourinho would have been pleased with his side's display, but if there was a concern it will have been our failure to make the most of our dominance.
The home supporters were forced to wait until eight minutes before the break to see their side register an attempt; a driving run by Steven Nzonzi saw the midfielder get to the byline, his cross was a decent one but, under pressure from Azpilicueta, Jonathan Walters could only direct his header into the side-netting.
They were almost made to rue that missed opportunity immediately as the Blues broke at speed, but Ramires, with options to his left and right, chose to go for goal, ensuring a comfortable save for Begovic, and it was a miss which would prove costly for ourselves minutes later.
Walters, scorer of two own-goals in last season's corresponding fixture, supplied a dangerous cross from the right which Ireland almost connected with, leaving Ramires to concede a corner as he defended the loose ball.
The delivery was swung in by Marko Arnautovic, and as the Chelsea defenders failed to deal with it effectively enough, the ball landed at the feet of Crouch, who scrambled it over the line to make it 1-1.
Having controlled the game for long spells it was difficult to take, and having conceded three times from set pieces in midweek it had happened again.
Their goal towards the end of the first half had visibly given Stoke a lift, and they started the second half the brighter of the two sides, forcing a couple of corners in quick succession.
We were struggling to deal with the tempo they'd set, and only five minutes after the restart we fell behind.
Walters was released down the right-hand side, where he quickly switched it inside to the unmarked Ireland. With the Chelsea defenders retreating, the substitute was allowed to advance towards goal, and he caught everybody by surprise with an early strike which clipped the foot of the post and rolled into the back of the net.
It was a bad start to the half, but our response was both immediate and emphatic as we hit back within three minutes.
Mata swung a free-kick in to the Stoke box from deep inside their half; it was cleared, but only as far as Schurrle, who crashed a powerful left-footed drive into the back of the net, doubling his own tally for the afternoon but, more significantly, netting a crucial equaliser.
It was developing into wonderful spectacle, but from a Chelsea perspective there remained plenty of work to do.
The game was almost turned on its head once more when Schurrle, enjoying one of his finest displays in a blue shirt, spun on the edge of the box and sent a dipping strike over the despairing dive of Begovic, only to see the ball drop against the top of the bar and fall behind.
Our first substitution of the afternoon saw Ba replace Torres just before the hour, but it was Stoke who should have restored their lead nine minutes later when Ireland passed up a glorious opportunity, firing inches over the bar from a Crouch lay-off.
It really was pulsating stuff, with both sets of supporters sensing their team could win the game, and with 21 minutes left on the clock Mourinho made a double substitution, replacing Mikel and injured Schurrle with Frank Lampard and Samuel Eto'o.
With neither side prepared to settle for a point the game ebbed and flowed, and it became apparent that the contest may be decided by a piece of individual brilliance or a mistake.
Eto'o went close with his first attempt as we pressed forward, rolling one inches wide of Begovic's left-hand post, with the striker, in a crowded penalty area, unable to find the space which would have enabled him to generate more power behind the strike.
As the game entered its final 10 minutes Ba was awarded a free-kick right on the edge of the Stoke penalty area after being brought down as he collected a Hazard pass following an enterprising run by the Belgian.
Mata and Lampard stood over the ball, and it was the latter who took the kick, firing low and hard towards goal, but straight down the throat of Begovic.
As the clock ticked towards the 90th minute, however, all our hard work was undone when Stoke scored what would prove to be the winning goal.
The ball was worked out to the substitute Oussama Assaidi wide on the left-hand side, where initially there appeared to be little danger. Assaidi, though, cut inside, and as a gap opened up, he fired an unstoppable strike beyond Cech and into the top corner of the net.
The quality of the strike was such that as the player celebrated over by the dugouts he was given a tap on the head by Mourinho, with the Portguese aware there was very little anybody could have done stop it.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry (c), Azpilicueta; Ramires, Mikel (Lampard 70); Schurrle (Eto'o 70), Mata, Hazard; Torres (Ba 59).
Unused substitutes: Schwarzer, Cole, Essien, De Bruyne.
Scorers Schurrle 9, 52
Booked Terry 85
Stoke City (4-4-1-1): Begovic; Cameron, Shawcross (c), Wilson, Muniesa; Walters (Assaidi 83), Whelan (Palacios 86), Nzonzi, Arnautovic; Adam (Ireland 18); Crouch.
Unused substitutues: Sorensen, Wilkinson, Pennant, Jones.
Scorers Crouch 41, Ireland 50, Assaidi 89
Booked Crouch 80, Walters 82, Assaidi 90, Ireland 90.
Referee Jonathan Moss