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Premier League

  • August 14, 2011
  • • 13:30
  • • Britannia Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire
  • Referee: M. Halsey
  • • Attendance: 27421
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Premier League Preview: Stoke City - Chelsea

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 defensive dilemma


PROBABLE LINEUPS

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 are 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 were 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 equaliser 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 have not spent on new players this summer. Jonathan Woodgate and Matthew Upson are the only arrivals thus far after joining on free transfers.
  • Stoke were 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 football 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 were 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 have won 35, Stoke 22, and there have been 17 draws.

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Last Five Matches
Odds
Team News
Available Squads
1Asmir BegovicGoalkeeper
4Robert HuthDefender
17Ryan ShawcrossDefender
8Jonathan WoodgateDefender
12Marc WilsonDefender
7Jermaine PennantMidfielder
24Rory DelapMidfielder
6Glenn WhelanMidfielder
26Matthew EtheringtonMidfielder
19Jonathan WaltersStriker
9Kenwyne JonesStriker
29Thomas SørensenGoalkeeper
5Danny CollinsDefender
28Andy WilkinsonDefender
30Ryan ShottonDefender
-Danny PughMidfielder
15Salif DiaoDefender
18Dean WhiteheadMidfielder
1Petr CechGoalkeeper
3José BosingwaDefender
33AlexDefender
26John TerryDefender
3Ashley ColeDefender
7RamiresMidfielder
12John Obi MikelMidfielder
8Frank LampardMidfielder
15Florent MaloudaMidfielder
8Salomon KalouStriker
9Fernando TorresStriker
48Henrique HilárioGoalkeeper
2Branislav IvanovicDefender
20Paulo FerreiraDefender
30Yossi BenayounMidfielder
51Josh McEachranMidfielder
11Didier DrogbaStriker
21Nicolas AnelkaStriker
Players to Watch
Robert Huth
Robert Huth
Position: Defender
Squad Number: 4
Games Goals YC RC
0 0 0 0
The big German faces off against the club where he made his name in England. Former Blues boss Jose Mourinho often used to throw the centre-half on as a late substitute to go up in attack when his side were chasing games, and he is very much an offensive weapon for Stoke, for whom he scored nine goals last season.
Didier Drogba
Didier Drogba
Position: Striker
Squad Number: 11
Games Goals YC RC
0 0 0 0
With Torres a doubt and Romelu Lukaku yet to work with his new club, the Ivorian will almost certainly be the man expected to lead the line for Chelsea.

This used to be the sort of game that the 33-year-old would relish, but a mixed last season – in which he was afflicted with malaria – cast doubt as to whether the former Marseille man could bully defenders as he used to, and even had the powerful target man linked with a move away from Chelsea.

The Stamford Bridge stalwart is not the sort to ever shirk away from a challenge, and he will look forward the chance to test himself against one of the most physical sides in Europe and show Villas-Boas that he still deserves to be considered a viable first-team option this season.
Prediction
Though the gauntlet of the Britannia Stadium has been somewhat overstated in recent months (Stoke have been defeated by the likes of Blackpool and Wigan since January), it is still a place that Villas-Boas will perhaps have wanted to avoid for his team's opening game of the season.

Stoke should also have the edge in terms of fitness having played in two Europa League fixtures and in Matthew Etherington and Jermaine Pennant, they have players that can spring a surprise with a trick or a perfect delivery for the two giant forwards.

However, the hosts' collective brawn and individual attacking options will come as no surprise to a manager as meticulous as Villas-Boas and they are likely to be better equipped than most at dealing with the aerial threat Stoke pose. With several senior stars having plenty to prove, expect Chelsea to push their way over the line and start the season with a big three points.
Editor's Prediction

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