Chelsea — Stoke City (FA Cup)
Chelsea’s winning streak will face a stern test on Sunday when the Blues host Stoke City for the 4th-round of the FA Cup. Penalties aside they have been unbeaten there for the last 25 FA Cup ties. But the Potters were successful in the last time they’ve met and a spark of hope goes a long way. Could we be in for another surprise?
Being third with 49 points, 2 behind leaders Arsenal, Chelsea maintain their grip into the top pack that is starting to put some distance between them and the opposition. There is no shortage of confidence at Stamford Bridge these days, following the 3-1 victory over defending Champions Manchester United last Sunday. And Mourinho will be hoping to add to their recent six-win-streak.
Top story of the week has been Mata’s departure to Old Trafford. Conspiracy theories see in it a mastermind plot, French Managers yell “unfair!”, I call it a sweat deal to all parties involved. Chelsea cash £37 million with a player that wasn’t used. Mata get’s his chance to be a key player where he is dearly appreciated. Manchester United get an exceptional performer —intelligent, skilled and creative — to fill the playmaker shoes left vacant by Rooney’s injury. But the transfer window has not been all about Juan Mata at Chelsea. Mourinho has been busy. Nemanja Matic returns from Benfica and the Blues signed 21-year-old attacking midfielder Mohamed Salah from Basel. The Portuguese also mentioned Chelsea’s advanced talks regarding Kurt Zouma. The 19 year is currently at St. Etienne but is already a high-value target for several clubs around the world. The player stated he would like a change and that it was special to acknowledge Chelsea’s interest. And there’s also the possibility of buying Guarin at sale price and Captain John Terry leaving Stamford Bridge. January frenzy is not over yet.
Marco van Ginkel and Fernando Torres are Mourinho’s only casualties for this match. Matic is expected to start for the first time since he got back from his Lisbon internship. Salah could make the bench.
Probable line-up: Schwarzer — Ivanovic, Cahill, Davis Luiz, Cole — Matic, Lampard — Willian, Oscar, Schurrle — Demba Ba.
Mark Hughes’ side sits in 14th with 22 points. Unlike at Britannia Stadium, their away form has been dreadful in League fixtures this seaon. West Ham is their only success, back in August. Other than that they count 2 draws and 8 losses. Going against top seed Chelsea couldn’t be in their favour. Or could it? The thing is the Potter nailed a 3-2 victory over the Blues seven weeks ago and that gives them a bit of an edge to go into Stamford Bridge. Chelsea has been getting stronger since then but still. Psychologically it carries some weight, it’s final proof that they can do it. Even if they were unable to come out victorious from any of their travels there since they earned promotion to the top flight back in 2008.
Matthew Etherington, Andy Wilkinson, Asmir Begovic and Robert Huth are all ruled out due to injury.
Probable line-up: Butland — Cameron, Wilson, Shawcross, Pieters — Whelan, Palacios — Pennant, Ireland, Assaidi — Crouch.
Chelsea are in a roll at the moment with the best run of the season, with players and staff in tune displaying that winning drive and approach so dear to Mourinho’s style of management. But he’ll be sure to warn them against euphoria. They need to keep in mind their last failure in League ties came a month ago precisely at the hands of their next FA Cup opposition.