Stoke City will provide the opposition on Saturday for Roberto Di Matteo’s first big test as Chelsea manager.
After brushing aside Birmingham in midweek, the new boss will be wary of the fact that this weekend’s opposition provide a far sterner test. Ironically, Andre Villas-Boas’ first league match in charge came away to Stoke, when his side were held to a 0-0 draw at the Britannia Stadium on the first day of the season.
The result was a disappointment for Chelsea and a pleasing success for Stoke. In a way, this has set the tone for both sides’ seasons.
Stoke have had a mundane mid-table league campaign, which, when you consider their short-term history, is more than acceptable, accompanied by a good set of results in the Europa League and an FA Cup quarter-final place.
Chelsea, meanwhile, have fallen far short of their league targets and look unlikely to advance past the second round of the Champions League. An FA Cup quarter-final place currently stands as their consolation.
A new manager, though, often brings a new dawn. When Gus Hiddink came to West London three years ago, Chelsea enjoyed a hugely successful end to the season, winning 11 out of 13 league games, coming very close to the Champions League final and winning the FA Cup.
On Saturday, the players will be out to impress their new boss and supporters should expect a huge improvement on the performances of recent weeks which have seen the side win only one of their last six Premier League games.
Stoke are an opposition not to be taken lightly, though. As well as forcing a draw from Chelsea earlier in the season, the Potters have also taken points of Manchester United, Tottenham and Liverpool.
Still Chelsea, buoyed by the premature return to fitness of John Terry, will feel confident that they have enough in their locker to overcome their opposition.