Andre Villas-Boas takes his team to the Britannia with doubts over the fitness of Fernando Torres and without the suspended Daniel Sturridge, as Tony Pulis has a defensive dilemma
|Stoke City (4-4-2): Begovic; Huth, Woodgate, Shawcross, Wilson; Pennant, Delap, Whelan, Etherington; Walters, Jones|
|Chelsea (4-3-3): Cech; Ivanovic, Terry, David Luiz, Cole; Ramires, Lampard, Mikel; Anelka, Drogba, Malouda|
Jonathan Woodgate is likely to get the nod at the back after forming an effective partnership with Ryan Shawcross in the recent Europa League second-leg win over Hajduk Split, meaning that last year's club player of the season Robert Huth is likely to revert back to a less natural right-back position. There is the possibility that fellow new signing Matthew Upson could start at left-back ahead of Marc Wilson, or that Tony Pulis could opt for a five-man defence (sacrificing one of the strikers) with the Irishman or right-back Andy Wilkinson filling in down either flank. Regardless, expect to see Stoke play with the onus on the wingers to create opportunities for the forwards.
For Andre Villas-Boas, Fernando Torres is a doubt with a head knock and it is unlikely that he will be risked against opponents who hold nothing back in the tackle and in the air, so Didier Drogba is likely to figure from the off. Chelsea is without Daniel Sturridge, who is serving a suspension after a red card in his final game for Bolton on loan last season, meaning that both Nicolas Anelka and Salomon Kalou are likely to figure at some point.
Branislav Ivanovic is a slight risk at the back with a thigh strain, but if deemed fit, the no-nonsense Serb is likely to figure to help John Terry and David Luiz (who is likely to start despite a knee injury) in the aerial duels in front of goal. Ramires should participate despite his Copa America exploits.
||DID YOU KNOW?|
- Of the top four teams, only Manchester United was able to come away from Stoke with three points last season, with Manchester City held in November and Arsenal beaten 3-1 by the Potters on home turf in May.
- The last meeting between the two sides ended 1-1, with Jonathan Walters (pictured right) scoring an equalizer after dribbling from the halfway line before slotting home at the near post.
- The next two teams to visit the Britannia Stadium in the Premier League are Liverpool and Manchester United.
- Despite being in Europe this season (for the first time in over 30 years), Stoke has not spent on new players this summer. Jonathan Woodgate and Matthew Upson are the only arrivals thus far after joining on free transfers.
- Stoke was only beaten five times at home last season.
- Chelsea recorded the Premier League's biggest away win last season when they thrashed Wigan 6-0 at the DW Stadium in August.
- This will be Andre Villas-Boas' first competitive game as a manager in English soccer and he will be looking to continue his unbeaten league run that stretches over 30 games after a stunning undefeated domestic season in charge of Porto.
- In the six league games between the two clubs since Stoke was promoted in 2008, the Blues are unbeaten, winning five games and putting 15 goals past Sunday's opponents.
- In the 74 league games between the two sides, Chelsea has won 35, Stoke 22, and there have been 17 draws.