Stoke - Chelsea Preview: Benitez looking for response after Capital One Cup defeat to Swansea
The Blues boss will be hoping to bounce back following a shock loss to the Swans, but they will have their work cut out against a Stoke side unbeaten in 17 league games at home
By Rhys Turrell
Cameron, Huth, Shawcross, Wilkinson
Whelan, Nzonzi, Adam
Kightly, Jones, Walters
Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Cahill, Cole
David Luiz, Lampard
Marin, Mata, Hazard
Stoke City manager Tony Pulis has just Rory Delap (hernia) and Mark Wilson (broken leg) absent for the visit of European champions Chelsea.
The Potters boss may decide to recall the likes of Kenwyne Jones, Glenn Whelan and Asmir Begovic - who all missed the 0-0 FA Cup draw with Crystal Palace last time out.
Blues manager Rafa Benitez may look to shake things up after his side's 2-0 defeat to Swansea in the first leg of their Capital One Cup semi-final, with Demba Ba and Frank Lampard contenders to return to the starting XI.
The Spaniard may be able to call on the services of captain John Terry (knee), after the 32-year-old made his return to action in a Chelsea development squad game on Thursday.
Victor Moses and John Obi Mikel are away at the Africa Cup on Nations, whilst the game will come too soon for Petr Cech (groin). Oriel Romeu (knee) is out for the rest of the season.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
- Stoke's record at the Britannia Stadium is imperious - they are unbeaten in their last 17 Premier League home games.
- The Potters are the only side in the top flight not to have conceded a goal from outside of the penalty box this season.
- Tony Pulis' side have kept a clean sheet in 43% of their league matches this term.
- Chelsea have not lost to Stoke in any competition for 37 years.
- Blues' midfielder Frank Lampard (pictured, right) needs just one goal to go ahead of club legend Kerry Dixon in the Blues' all-time scoring list. They are currently tied on 193 strikes each.
- Out-of-sorts Spain striker Fernando Torres had just 19 touches of the ball in the 80 minutes he played in Chelsea's last game - which was his 100th appearance for the Stamford Bridge club.
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Top 3 Predictions
Stoke City 1-3 Chelsea FC
- 17.17 %
Stoke City 1-2 Chelsea FC
- 9.25 %
Stoke City 0-3 Chelsea FC
- 9.22 %
|Premier League (EPL)||12 Jan 2013||Stoke City 0 - Chelsea FC 4|
|Premier League (EPL)||22 Sep 2012||Chelsea FC 1 - Stoke City 0|
|Premier League (EPL)||10 Mar 2012||Chelsea FC 1 - Stoke City 0|
|Premier League (EPL)||14 Aug 2011||Stoke City 0 - Chelsea FC 0|
|Premier League (EPL)||2 Apr 2011||Stoke City 1 - Chelsea FC 1|
|19 May 2013||Southampton 1 - Stoke City 1||EPL|
|12 May 2013||Stoke City 1 - Tottenham 2||EPL|
|6 May 2013||Sunderland 1 - Stoke City 1||EPL|
|27 Apr 2013||Stoke City 1 - Norwich City 0||EPL|
|20 Apr 2013||QPR 0 - Stoke City 2||EPL|
|Returns:||Stoke City £710.00||Sign up with William Hill for a free bet up to £25|
|Returns:||Draw £610.00||Sign up with William Hill for a free bet up to £25|
|Returns:||Chelsea £19.09||Sign up to Paddy Power for £250 in free bets|
The former Manchester United defender is the captain and lynchpin of this Stoke City side. His athletic style, and excellent partnership with Robert Huth has ensured the Potters' have one of the toughest back-lines in the Premier League, their robust style ensuring few attackers relish a trip to the Britannia Stadium. Stoke will have their hands full with either Torres or Ba, but with Shawcross in their ranks, they have a good chance of getting something out of the game.
While all the talk of late has centred on Frank Lampard's future and the arrival of Demba Ba, it must not be forgotten that the diminutive Spanish attacker has been in outstanding form this season. His contribution of assists and goals this campaign has been vital in keeping the Blues in contention at the top of the league, and his ability to find space and work in tight situations will be key as Stoke flood the centre of the park in a bid to stifle their visitors. Expect the ex-Valencia man to be behind all of Chelsea's good work on Saturday.
Chelsea will be smarting after their Capital One Cup loss to Swansea on Wednesday, and they certainly have enough quality to beat any side when on their game. Stoke, however, are formidable on their own patch, and will certainly not roll over and make the job easy for Rafa Benitez's side. With Kenwyne Jones in top form, the Potters have an attacker with power and height that is hard to match, and he will test Gary Cahill and Branislav Ivanovic to the max - the absence of John Terry, who would relish a battle with a big striker, could prove key.
Times In BST
Live Final scheduled Suspended Cancelled Postponed