Chelsea are back in FA Cup action on Sunday, when they host fellow Premier League side Stoke City at Stamford Bridge in the fourth round.
Jose Mourinho’s men have been in excellent form of late, winning their last six matches in all competitions, including a 2-0 victory over Derby in the last round of the cup tournament.
On home soil the Blues will be expected to progress through to the next stage of the competition and Mourinho will urge his side to kill the game off quickly, therefore nullifying the possibility of a replay and an extra match in a busy schedule.
With a midweek Premier League fixture against London rivals West Ham on the horizon, the Portuguese boss may well be tempted to shuffle his pack against Stoke. A number of key players could do with the extra days off, while others will be chomping at the bit to get game time.
Despite Samuel Eto’o’s hat-trick in the west London outfit’s 3-1 win over Manchester United last time out, Demba Ba is likely to get a chance to play. There could well be a debut for January transfer signing Nemanja Matic, but the game will come too soon for fellow new recruit Mohamed Salah.
Stoke have been a relatively inconsistent side this season, capable of producing the odd stellar display but also culpable of lacklustre showings. Their last meeting with Chelsea heralded a 3-2 win at the Britannia Stadium back at the start of December – their first victory over the Blues in the modern era, and ending a run of 11 fixtures without a win against the London opposition.
In the league, Mark Hughes’ men are dicing with the relegation threat, and currently sit in 14th place, four points above the dropzone. The Potters beat Leicester 2-1 in the third round of the competition, but have been struggling for form of late, winning only two of their last nine fixtures.
Chelsea will be overwhelming favourites to win the clash, and could go on to record a comfortable victory if they can break Stoke’s resolve in the early exchanges.