Chelsea will on the lookout for a 13th consecutive win in the Premier League when they host Stoke City at Stamford Bridge on New Year’s Eve.
The Blues will also be keen to stretch their six-point lead at the top ahead of Liverpool’s game with Manchester City later in the day, a meeting of second against third.
Chelsea’s chances of earning three more points are boosted by the return of two key figures, striker Diego Costa and midfield destroyer N’Golo Kante.
Meanwhile, more than one former player has called for Stoke boss Mark Hughes to hand mercurial forward Bojan Krkic a rare start.
The biggest news and reason of joy for Chelsea fans is the fact that Diego Costa can return and play after his suspension. John Terry will remain on the sidelines.
Phil Bardsley may return for Stoke after a month out with a knee injury. Geoff Cameron and Marc Muniesa are both still unavailable.
Chelsea didn’t win either game against Stoke City last season (D1 L1), the first time they had failed to beat them either home or away in a league campaign since 1974/75.
The Potters are winless in 11 league visits to Chelsea, last winning there 1-0 in April 1974.
Stoke have scored just three times in eight visits to Stamford Bridge, with goals from Rory Delap, Charlie Adam and Mame Biram Diouf.
Eden Hazard scored and assisted in Chelsea’s last Premier League win over Stoke (2-1 in April 2015).
Chelsea haven’t lost their final league game of a calendar year since 2011 (1-3 at home to Aston Villa).
League Head to Head
05/03/2016 Premier League 2015/2016 Chelsea 1 – 1 Stoke City
07/11/2015 Premier League 2015/2016 Stoke City 1 – 0 Chelsea
27/10/2015 League Cup 2015/2016 Stoke City 1 – 1 Chelsea
04/04/2015 Premier League 2014/2015 Chelsea 2 – 1 Stoke City
22/12/2014 Premier League 2014/2015 Stoke City 0 – 2 Chelsea
05/04/2014 Premier League 2013/2014 Chelsea 3 – 0 Stoke City
Chelsea: Diego Costa
Costa is the most feared marksman in England’s top flight, having already scored 13 goals this season.
The Spain international is a deadly finisher who never gives defenders a rest with his perceptive movement and aggression, and he’ll pose all sorts of problems for a plodding Stoke back four.
Stoke City: Joe Allen
While Allen does not rank among the greatest midfielders of his generation, there is more than a little wiggle room between legend and loser. Neither genius nor fraud, the 26-year-old occupies the space in between.
He is one of the most underrated players in the English Premier League, but his potential and talent offers a wide spectrum of advantages that Stoke can reap.
The Blues have been lethal on the counter this season and should be even more potent with Costa back in the lineup. Thus, the match is likely to end in a 2-1 victory for Chelsea.