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Premier League preview: Stoke v Chelsea

Chelsea will be aiming to stay in touch with the automatic Champions League qualifying spots when they visit Stoke on Saturday.

But the Blues find themselves in the middle of a form slump and their task of claiming victory at Britannia Stadium will not be an easy one given Stoke have not lost at their home ground in 10 Premier League outings this season.

Chelsea are just one point off third-placed Tottenham with a game in hand but they have not had much to write home about since the beginning of the year.

On January 2, they suffered the humiliation of losing to bottom-placed Queens Park Rangers 1-0 in front of their home fans at Stamford Bridge.

And while they rebounded with vigour three days later to thump Southampton 5-1 in their third-round FA Cup tie, Chelsea came crashing back to earth on Wednesday when they stumbled again at home to Swansea 2-0 in the first leg of their League Cup semi-final.

However, Stoke have not been in the greatest form either since their 3-1 victory over Liverpool on Boxing Day.

They drew 3-3 with lowly Southampton on December 29, got brushed aside 3-0 by Manchester City on New Year’s Day and had to settle for a 0-0 draw with Championship outfit Crystal Palace in their third-round FA Cup clash on Saturday.

History is also against Stoke in their pursuit of the three points against Chelsea, given they have not beaten the Blues in 37 years in all competitions – although they forced draws with Chelsea both last season and in 2010/11.

In a boost for the visitors, manager Rafael Benitez suggested injured captain John Terry could make a return to the line-up after injuring his knee against Liverpool in November.

“John Terry has been training and we are considering to play him some minutes on Thursday in the under-21 team,” Benitez said.

“We’ll see how he feels on Thursday and hopefully he can play more minutes in the short term so we will see.

“Before he was just doing the warm up and now he’s been training and if he can play (on Thursday) obviously we will be closer (to selecting him).

“It depends on his reaction so obviously Thursday will be a different kind of game but we will see how he feels and if he can feel okay and train the day after at least we can consider him as an option.”

Thu 10 January, 2013
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