Chelsea moved into second place in the Premier League with a comprehensive 5-0 victory over a much-changed Stoke City side at Stamford Bridge.
Mark Hughes opted to make six changes for Saturday’s clash with one eye on their meeting with Newcastle United on January 1, and his under-strength side were swept aside.
Antonio Rudiger and Danny Drinkwater put the hosts 2-0 ahead inside the opening 10 minutes as a thrashing looked in the offing.
When Pedro added a third midway through the opening half it became a question of how many Chelsea would score, although they were relieved to see Mame Biram Diouf’s effort disallowed.
Chelsea took their foot off the gas in the second half, but still saw Alvaro Morata and Pedro denied by Jack Butland, although there was nothing the Stoke goalkeeper could do with Willian’s late penalty.
Davide Zappacosta added a fifth in the 88th minute with a drilled effort from outside the area.
Victory temporarily lifts Chelsea above Manchester United – who play Southampton later in the day – in the table ahead of their trip to Arsenal, while Stoke’s attention’s turn to an important clash with the Magpies at the bet365 Stadium on Monday.
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) December 30, 2017
From the kick-off Chelsea were on the attack and, after wasting an early corner, they quickly found a way past Butland, Rudiger climbing above Tom Edwards at the back post to head home.
The German defender had the simple task of nodding in from Willian’s pinpoint free-kick after Victor Moses had been tripped by Josh Tymon on the right.
There was no respite for Stoke as Drinkwater quickly doubled Chelsea’s advantage with his first goal for the club, the midfielder lashing into the top corner having been given all the time in the world to control Pedro’s blocked cross.
Chelsea’s utter dominance produced a third goal after 23 minutes as Pedro became the latest player to beat Butland, the Spaniard exquisitely turning away from Tymon before firing across the Stoke goalkeeper.
Cesar Azpilicueta and Morata both wasted chances for a fourth home goal before the break, while Chelsea were grateful to the assistant referee for disallowing Diouf’s cool finish for handball.
5 – Five of Pedro’s last seven Premier League goals have come from outside the box. Range.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 30, 2017
After nearly two years without a league goal, Saido Berahino brought a save out of Thibaut Courtois early in the second period, the Belgium international getting down well to his left.
As the clock ticked over the hour mark Butland was on hand twice to deny Chelsea a fourth, Morata denied when one-on-one before the England goalkeeper punched away Pedro’s left-foot drive.
The goalkeeper could do nothing to deny Willian after 73 minutes, though, as the forward capped an impressive display with his third of the season.
It came after a slice of luck as Geoff Cameron was punished for a challenge on the Brazilian, but it mattered little to Willian, who sent Butland the wrong way to get a deserved goal.
Substitute Zappacosta wrapped up a five-star display from the defending champions in the closing minutes, his low strike fizzing beyond the hands of Butland to wrap up an easy win.
Key Opta stats:
– Chelsea have conceded just four goals in their last 12 Premier League games, keeping eight clean sheets on the way.
– Stoke’s total of 20 points after 21 games is their worst-ever haul at this stage of a Premier League season.
– The Potters have registered a league-low two clean sheets in the top-flight this season; indeed, in Europe’s big five leagues, only Serie A strugglers Benevento have kept fewer (1).
– Josh Tymon is just the third teenager to start a Premier League game for the Potters, after Ramadan Sobhi and Thomas Edwards.
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