After miserable assignments at the Palace and in Paris for Chelsea, they now land back at home with a bump.
Back-to-back defeats at Selhurst Park and the Parc de Princes have surely made this the most miserable week of Jose Mourinho’s second coming at Stamford Bridge, and the Portuguese will be keen to ensure that morale is raised ahead of this meeting with Stoke, that’s if he’s not the one making it plummet.
Having been critical of his strikeforce in the past few weeks – thereby removing himself from any blame for recent defeats – Mourinho has left no-one in any doubt as to where he thinks the problem with his team lies.
He surprisingly selected Andre Schurrle as the lone striker for the Champions League defeat at PSG on Wednesday, and was then less than complementary about the display of either the German or his replacement Fernando Torres.
With Samuel Eto’o still out injured here, it will be interesting to see who Mourinho turns to to lead his line, with Torres surely the favourite although a rare outing for Demba Ba shouldn’t be discounted.
In contrast to their opponents, Stoke City will arrive in West London perhaps as confident as they’ve ever been during their six years in the Premier League.
Their highest ever tallies of wins, points and goals in a season during that time are all in sight over the remainder of this campaign, and having reached that ‘magical’ 40 point mark last weekend they’ve now got the freedom to express themselves as they chase those targets.
In Peter Odemwingie they possess a forward who has scored the same amount of goals in his last three Premier League games as Torres has all season, and perhaps even Mourinho will be looking at the Nigerian with more than a hint of envy here.
Stoke have won four of their last five games and are targeting a top half finish, and although Mark Hughes perhaps wouldn’t be expecting anything from this trip to one of his former clubs, they can make life extremely difficult for Chelsea on Saturday evening.
The draw isn’t out of the question at 5.65, whilst with all of Chelsea’s last three home wins over the Potters coming by one goal to nil then the under 2.5 goals looks a good investment at 1.96. Those felling a little braver could go under 1.5 at 3.80.
Chelsea are 5.40 to repeat that trend of winning 1-0, whilst its 2.45 for Stoke to be holding their hosts to a draw at half-time.
The in-form Odemwingie is an excellent 7.00 to make it four goalscoring games in a row and find the net at any time, whilst Stoke’s Marko Arnautovic offers a threat from set-pieces and is 8.50 to score at any point of the evening.
With forward issues still a concern for Mourinho he’ll be grateful for the persistent presence of Eden Hazard, with the Belgian 5.00 to score the first goal at Stamford Bridge and 2.40 to beat Asmir Begovic at any time.
Andre Schurrle scored twice as Chelsea lost 3-2 at Stoke in December as is 2.65 to score at any time, whilst Oscar bagged the only goal when these two met in the FA Cup earlier this year and is 6.75 to score first again.
Under 2.5 goals – 1.96
Draw at half-time – 2.45