Stoke could inflict more misery on struggling Chelsea when they host the Blues at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday (17:30 GMT, live on Sky Sports).
Stoke drew 0-0 away to Newcastle last weekend. Their hosts had the better of a fairly even and occasionally ill-tempered encounter, with the post, goalkeeper Jack Butland and defender Erik Pieters all coming to Stoke’s aid at one time or another. Jonathan Walters had a close-range header well-saved in what was their own best chance.
It was the second match in succession in which Mark Hughes’ (pictured) team had failed to score and the eighth time in their 11 league matches to date that they had failed to register more than a single goal. They have taken less shots than any other side in the division, less shots on target than all but one and are, unsurprisingly, the league’s lowest scorers, with just nine goals.
It is a mixed start to the season but come into this match on the back of four wins, one draw and one defeat in their last six matches in all competitions. They are 14th in the Premier League table with 13 points from three wins, four draws and four defeats.
It has certainly not been the start to the season that Hughes would have hoped for. His side came into the campaign on the back of two consecutive ninth-place finishes and some very solid recruitment work over the summer but have failed to impress at either end of the pitch. It would be difficult to argue that they do not deserve to be where they are at this stage.
Hughes will be without the injured Geoff Cameron (thigh), Marc Muniesa (thigh) and Shay Given (knee), while Chelsea-owned Marco van Ginkel is also unable to take part due to the terms of his loan agreement.
Chelsea have struggled this season with two wins, one draw and three defeats in their last six matches in all competitions. They are 15th in the Premier League table with 11 points from three wins, two draws and a whopping six defeats.
Jose Mourinho’s side recorded a 2-1 win at home to Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League on Wednesday. They took the lead through a first-half own goal and created the better chances of the match, but endured a nervy spell during the second half that eventually led to a Dynamo equaliser. It took a superb late free-kick from Willian to secure the three points.
Last season was one of two halves for Chelsea. Their early-season attacking focus saw them win by two or more goals in 11 in their first 19 matches of the campaign, before a 5-3 defeat away to Tottenham Hotspur on New Year’s Day saw them revert to a more cautious approach thereafter. Eight of their 12 remaining victories were achieved by a single goal.
But this season the Blues have been unable to rely on strong contributions from either end of the pitch. The defence have already conceded over two-thirds as many goals as they did over the entirety of last season, while the attack is scoring an average of one less goal for every two matches they play. The balance of the side has been noticeably askew.
Mourinho will be without the injured Radamel Falcao Garcia (knee) and Thibaut Courtois (knee). Branislav Ivanovic (hamstring) is expected to return after missing the last month of action with an injury he picked up on international duty.
Our Preview’s Stoke v Chelsea Betting Tips
Stoke triumphed on penalties following a 1-1 draw when these sides met in the Capital One Cup last month, but it is Chelsea who have emerged victorious from each of the last three league meetings, including a 2-0 win at the Britannia last season. The last six league meetings at Stoke’s home have yielded three wins for Chelsea and just one for Stoke.
Stoke could really do with the confidence boost of a victory over the reigning champions in order to get their campaign up and running. They have been very average so far, and their lack of goals is a real concern. But they drew with Chelsea — having led until stoppage time — over the 90 minutes in the Capital One Cup and will hope to at least replicate that on Saturday.
It is clear that all is not right at Chelsea. One would usually expect them to emerge victorious from such a fixture but their poor results and performances so far this season mean that it is difficult to predict that they will do so with any great confidence. They are under-performing on both a team and individual level, and Stoke will fancy their chances of securing a draw.
Here are our Stoke v Chelsea match preview’s betting tips: