Chelsea have rattled off three straight wins, after suffering their first loss of the season at Newcastle two weeks ago. However, a difficult November for The Blues, and a six game win streak for Manchester City, mean the two are tied on points (though Chelsea have a game in hand). Chelsea will look to regain their three-point lead atop the table when they visit Stoke City on Monday (3:00 PM EST).
In their last six Premier League meetings, Stoke have scored in just one. That was in last season’s 3-2 victory over Chelsea at The Britannia Stadium. Stoke will need a similar performance if they are to take any points off this season’s best team.
Chelsea have scored 36 goals in 16 games, and will look to add to that record as they are going up against a defense that has failed to keep a clean sheet in their last ten league games.
However, Chelsea have been far from invincible away from home, winning just half of their away games this season. That form will need to improve if they are to remain top of the table through the ‘12 points of Christmas’. Three of their next four matches over the course of just 11 days are away from home, against Stoke, Southampton and Tottenham.
Chelsea Manager, Jose Mourinho, has been rotating his squad in order to give his star players rest for the upcoming fixtures, and certain substitutes have taken their chances well. Andre Schurrle and Filipe Luis have been standout performers, and will be hoping they’ve done enough to crack the starting eleven.
With no major injuries or suspensions, Mourinho will again have a full squad to choose from. Away from home and needing the three points, Chelsea are likely to field a slightly more defensive lineup than they have in recent cup games.
Thibault Courtois has missed the last two games with a muscular injury, but Mourinho has declared him fit to face Stoke.
Summer signing, Filipe Luis, has found it difficult to crack the starting eleven, but has found himself in the starting role the last three games.
He has been quite impressive, especially when joining the attack. Whether or not he is preferred to either Branislav Ivanovic or Cesar Azpilicueta in league games is yet to be determined.
In a game at Stoke, it is unlikely Azpilicueta will be benched. Azpilicueta is one of the Premier League’s best one-on-one defenders and will be given the task of shutting down Stoke’s playmaker, Bojan.
Furthermore, the size of Ivanovic will be needed to shut down Europe’s tallest side. Luis, a great talent, provides a better option for home fixtures, where The Blues are more comfortable attacking.
Look for Gary Cahill and John Terry to lineup in central defense as they have in all 16 games.
The likes of Cesc Fabregas, Nemanja Matic, Eden Hazard, Oscar and Willian have all received at least one game of rest over the last two weeks. In their absence other players have been given a chance to state their case for the starting eleven.
No one player has made a bigger statement than winger, Andre Schurrle. The German has scored twice in two starts and is hoping to keep his place come Monday. However, Willian offers more in defense and Mourinho has shown a preference for the Brazilian in League games. The Brazilian should start, but will need to be on top form in order to keep his place in the coming weeks.
Hazard has also been a standout since the loss at Newcastle with two goals in the last three games. Hazard is not only the most fouled player in the Premier League, but has also completed the most passes (450) in the final third.
Matic missed the game against Newcastle through suspension, but has since returned. Chelsea’s form is no doubt correlated to the performances of the Serbian. Look for him to lineup alongside Fabregas on Monday.
Diego Costa was rested last Tuesday as Chelsea beat Derby County to reach the semifinals of the Capital One Cup. The summer signing has been a menace for opposing defenses and is Chelsea’s top scorer.
Not only is his finishing a bother to opponents, but his attitude and arrogance prove an annoyance for his foes. However, if the goals keep coming, Mourinho won’t have complaints about his on field antics. Look for him to lead the attack against Stoke.
Via – Lineup Builder