25th January 2014
High-flying Chelsea will be searching for their seventh successive victory when they host Stoke City in the FA Cup fourth round despite the fact that Jose Mourinho is likely to rest his key men ahead of the Premier League clash against West Ham. The Potters, on the other hand, need to try and get their season back on track and no doubt a good performance at Stamford Bridge would be a step in the right direction.
January transfer window is proving to be a huge success for Chelsea, with one of Europe’s most sought-after players Nemanja Matic already arriving at Stamford Bridge and another set to follow in Mohamed Salah. At the same time, the Blues are set to earn reported £37 million for a player who was warming the bench this season, so they clearly have plenty of reason for optimism at the moment. On top of that, the team seem to have hit the ground running at a crucial stage of the season, with 3-1 triumph over Manchester United their sixth victory in a row in all competitions. And with the busy schedule set to continue, FA Cup match against Stoke City will be a good opportunity for Mourinho to rest some of his regular starters while also giving back-up players a chance to shine. While the purchase of Mohamed Salah is unlikely to be completed in time, January signing Nemanja Matic is expected to start, probably alongside Frank Lampard who has recovered from injury. Given that Fernando Torres is on the sidelines, Demba Ba is expected to lead the line, with Ashley Cole also tipped to start.
Mark Hughes arrived at the Britannia Stadium hoping to transform Stoke’s long-ball playing style while also ensuring the Potters keep their Premier League status, and while the first part of his task appears to have been successful, there is still a lot of work to be done is his side are to avoid the drop. Stoke had done pretty well until the hectic festive schedule began, but they have since failed to win any of their Premier League fixtures. Having only picked up one point from last five league outings, the Potters slipped to 14th in the overall standings and currently sit just four points above the bottom three. This is enough to suggest they won’t be able to fully focus on their FA Cup clash against Chelsea, even if they did well to eliminate Leicester in the previous round. Seeing as how they have already defeated the Blues this season, the Potters can take some confidence into the clash at Stamford Bridge and Mark Hughes remains adamant that he will take the game very seriously. The potential return to Asmir Begovic could provide a much needed boost, but Robert Huth and Andy Wilkinson have been ruled out.
Chelsea have been steadily raising their form of late and even with Mourinho set to rest some of his starters, his starting line-up should have no problems defeating out-of-sorts Stoke City, who will have one eye on Wednesday’s Premiership clash against relegation rivals Sunderland. It is for that reason that Chelsea half-time/full-time win looks a good option here.
Best Odds: 5/8