PMB: Chelsea v Stoke City - tactics

We conclude our Pre-Match Briefing for today's Premier League game at the Bridge...



•            Alvaro Morata ran riot at Stoke in late September, the pick of his hat-trick of goals being a run from the halfway line and subtly steered finish. Morata’s opener against Brighton on Boxing Day arrived at a time the Blues had stepped up the pace and energy of our approach play, something Stoke may find equally hard to live with.

•            Potters goalkeeper Jack Butland has said: ‘It’s far too easy for [opponents] to tip-toe to the bye-line, cut it back and have a tap in.’ Antonio Conte will want any of his team who are presented with such a chance to make it count more than has been the case in recent games such as at Everton a week ago.

•            With the visitors’ defence significantly depleted this weekend, crosses may well prove vital again. Morata’s seventh headed goal in all competitions against Brighton was Chelsea’s 12th in the league this season. That is three more than any other Premier League team.

•            Pivotal midfielder N’Golo Kante should feature, after being named France Football’s French Footballer of 2017, ahead of Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe and Paul Pogba. 



•            On Boxing Day Peter Crouch played upfront for Stoke, supported by wide attacking midfielders Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and Xherdan Shaqiri. Crouch’s headed lay-offs are usually one of biggest problems for opponents. In the past Chelsea have paid special attention to winning his knockdowns, it being near impossible to beat him to a high ball. Stoke summer signing Jese Rodriguez has not figured since November, but 20-year-old winger Ramadan Sobhi has netted in successive league games after a lengthy barren run.

•            At Huddersfield, Hughes used a central midfield of Geoff Cameron and Darren Fletcher, with tireless runner Joe Allen just ahead of them in the no.10 role manager Mark Hughes has designated for the Wales international.

•            At the back, on-loan Kurt Zouma’s ineligibility adds to the defensive tribulations for a Potters side that has conceded at least once in each of the past 10 games, and is without a win in five away trips. When Chelsea won 4-0 in the Potteries back in September, City were also without injured Ryan Shawcross, and their back three consisted of only one specialist centre-back, Bruno Martins Indi.

•            Shawcross limped off on Tuesday, and Indi is already ruled out. Erik Pieters may return at full-back, though, meaning Kevin Wimmer could play at centre-half alongside a relocated Cameron. Otherwise left-back Tom Edwards may be paired with another 18-year-old, Josh Tymon, making his full league debut against the champions at right-back.

Old Boy Blues

•            Mark Hughes was a star striker in the late ‘90s for his boyhood club, playing in the Blues’ FA Cup and League Cup final wins and earning a Cup Winners’ Cup final berth with a stunning volley against Vicenza.

•            One of three ever-presents in the 1983/84 promotion team, Eddie Niedzwiecki was among the best goalkeepers in the league until injury wrecked his career in 1987.


•            The first signing of the Roman Abramovich era, Glen Johnson won Premier League and League Cup winners’ medals in his second season, 2004/05.





David Luiz (knee)

Charly Musonda (groin)





Stephen Ireland (leg)

Bruno Martins Indi (groin)

Ryan Shawcross (calf)

Glen Johnson (knee)


Erik Pieters (hip)




Kurt Zouma (regulations of loan)


By Rick Glanvill

William Hill Match Preview | Chelsea v Stoke