Stoke City vs. Chelsea
Rafael Benitez will take his Chelsea side to the Britannia Stadium to take on one of the meanest defenses in the Premier League in the form of Stoke City as they look to end their drought after a shock defeat at the hands of relegation threatened Queens Park Rangers in the last game week of the Premier League. Benitez has not learned from his tinkering ways at Liverpool and that proved to be his downfall as he rested several key players in the match against the side from Loftus Road, with the likes of Juan Mata rested.
Although Benitez did bring on his high flying stars in the second half, it was too little too late as the London side failed to make up the gap on the leading Manchester clubs to remain 14 points behind the table topping Manchester United. Benitez will not dream of taking any risk against the Premier League’s meanest defenses that boasts of the likes of Ryan Shwacross, Geoff Cameron and former Chelsea defender Robert Huth as well as Asmir Begovic in goal. The Spanish manager knows he will need his big guns to break down the stubborn defense of Stoke and with Demba Ba signed and ready to roll, he will put him on from the start in place of Fernando Torres as well.
Moreover, his defense will also have to contend with the long throw and long ball tactics of Tony Pulis’s side whose body contact style of play hasn’t earned them many fans but the results are there for all to witness. Moreover, with heavy players in the centre of midfield, Chelsea’s small midfield players will have to keep the ball on the ground in order to get the better of the Stoke City team.
Stoke, themselves haven’t had the best of game weeks last time when they suffered a 3-0 mauling at the hands of reigning champions Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium and they will look to get the better of a side that they know how to get the better of. Moreover, all the big players for Tony Pulis will be back for the match and that will give him a lot of confidence to take on an extremely attacking side in the form of Chelsea. But the deciding factor for the match will be how Juan Mata and Eden Hazard manages to cope with the defense of Stoke.