With the English League Cup set to keep us all entertained in midweek, the headline fixture will take place at the Britannia Stadium when defending champions Chelsea make what is usually a daunting trip for any side in England. Stoke will go into this game on the back of a disappointing home defeat against newly promoted Watford and should be desperate to right the wrongs against Mourinho’s men who have had a very poor and uncharacteristic season in many ways, so far.
Manager Mark Hughes believes his side face the Blues at the right time while they themselves need a big result to kick start their season. He said,
“The performance against Watford was not one I recognised to be perfectly honest. But the good thing is that we have a big game on Tuesday against Chelsea, and that is the perfect game for us. We can get back on track.”
Jose Mourinho needs to win this game, to put it bluntly. Five losses in the league campaign, they go into this game with 3 defeats in the last 5 games across all competitions, and a relatively early league cup exit might trigger some reaction from the board and even the fans who have so far been very patient with the team’s shocking and lifeless performances considering this is the same side that had won the league and cup double, not long ago. In what is a crucial stage in the cup with an opportunity to play in the quarter-finals at stake, a strong line-up from both sides is expected on Tuesday which will make this clash all the more interesting and nerve-wracking for both sets of supporters.
Hughes will be expecting the return of defender Ryan Shawcross for the big game with the defender following a recovery from a back injury, although he did confirm Geoff Cameron would likely be absent after going off injured against Watford.
Chelsea, on the other hand, will miss the services of Nemanja Matic – suspended after picking up a red card during the West Ham defeat – while Branislav Ivanovic (hamstring) and Loic Remy (knock) are both doubtful.
Stoke City have lost 3 out of their last 5 matches at the Britannia stadium.
Chelsea, on the other hand, have been disappointing on the road with 3 losses in their last 5 away games in the league.
Key Men Comparison
Bojan (Stoke City) v Azpilicueta (Chelsea)
The 25-year old La Masia graduate is one of the best players in Stoke City and is arguably the focal point of their attack illustrating their change in style of play from a physical robust nature to a more fluid football. He’s already been impressing the fans with match-winning displays, notably the win against Arsenal at home last season and has scored twice thus far in this campaign in 4 appearances. Usually clinical in front of goal, the ex-Barcelona forward has had a 57% shot accuracy and holds the key to unlocking Chelsea’s defence on Tuesday.
Chelsea’s season has been well below par, often marred by lack of creativity going forward and disjointed performances at the back with a lack of discipline. Azpilicueta, who was phenomenal for the Blues in the double winning 2014/15 season was the best full-back in the league by a landslide, usually rock-solid at the back as he was overlapping forward. He needs to put in a performance of that ilk on Tuesday as does the rest to arrest the rot and the game can’t have come any sooner following another league defeat in the weekend against West Ham United. He said,
“We want to play again as soon as possible, because we need to win some games and so the match against Stoke comes at a good time, we have to recover from this defeat [at West Ham] as quickly as possible, and our mentality has to be to win and get through to the next round. Nothing less than that is good enough”
This is a huge game for both sides, all the more so for the visitors. This could just be the strangest prediction I’ve made in a while.
Bring on the twitter abuse.