The Potters are making the trip down from the west midlands on Sunday to play against a Chelsea side that look in fine form but not 100% convincing. Coming off the back of an easy 3-1 victory over a struggling United and an unbeaten run of 7 games in all competitions we look good value. However, I always seem to remember that extremely close encounter back in 2009 where we had to rely on two late goals to see off a strong Stoke side. Since then, both clubs can say they have changed a fair amount, we have a new look side with small technically gifted players, whereas Stoke are no longer being coached by Tony Pulis and are struggling very much so under Mark Hughes who will still play a physical, get the ball in the box game.
With Mata all but gone at the time of writing and Salah on the brink of joining, Stamford Bridge and Jose could feel a different atmosphere around the ground; knowing a fan favourite and a key player over the past two years leaving the club to a main rival, how will the Stamford Bridge faithful react? With agreement that he was a top player in a weaker Chelsea side, or disagreement he pushed on to win the back to back European trophies. With Salah looking likely to just step in as his replacement – I can only hope he has a similar sort of impact of which Willian is making at the moment.
Stoke have their own problems at the moment, but theirs are on the field and since Christmas are conceding on average nearly 3 goals a game. This would be a huge worry for a squad which is built on solid foundations and a hard to beat mentality. The only real hope they can cling onto is that Mark Hughes has beaten Jose already this season, which was just over a month ago.
With that in mind, we have to look at the side Jose put out in the Premier League clash on 7th December. In my opinion, it is a fairly weak side which would have given Stoke confidence after seeing the line-up. There were a few players in that line up who aren’t as up for tough fighting games and against Stoke you need the players who are willing to go the extra mile and put up a fight. The only change I would make from the win against United is Lampard in for Luiz. Although, I feel Luiz does offer us slightly more than Lamps can, in these games, having players who have been there and fought before are needed.
Taking form into account and Chelsea being on home turf, I can only see a Chelsea win; albeit it coming from another strong second half display when our class will begin to show. Going into the next round would be a real confidence boost for all around the club, just to show we are fighting on all fronts and are looking to regain the cup that in recent years we have taken a real shine to.
Contribution by Sean Makins