Chelsea will look to bounce back from two consecutive losses when they take on Stoke City at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, knowing anything less than three points will surely end their title challenge.
After defeats to Crystal Palace in the league and Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League, the Blues' season has taken a distinct downturn, with BT Sport's Ian Darke pithily summing up their week:
Chelsea 's worst few days of season ...— Ian Darke (@IanDarke) April 2, 2014
Jose Mourinho's side need to put in a good performance against the Potters, with three points an absolute necessity if they are to keep pace with Liverpool and Manchester City.
Mark Hughes' side reached the 40-point mark last weekend with a 1-0 win over Hull and look to be safe from the drop but will be aiming to kick on and close the season out well.
When: Saturday, April 5, at 5.30pm BST/12.30pm ET
Where: Stamford Bridge, London
TV Info: Live on Sky Sports 1 (UK)
Chelsea on the brink
This time last week Chelsea were sitting pretty at the top of the Premier League with only lowly Palace to negotiate before heading on to bigger things in the Champions League.
They have now dropped to second in the league, two points behind Liverpool, with Manchester City two points further back but poised to leapfrog the West London side if they win their games in hand.
Mourinho said after the loss at Selhurst Park that his side were now out of the title race, as reported on BBC Sport:
Now it's impossible to win the title. We depend too much on other results.
When you depend a little it's possible, when you depend a lot I don't think it is possible.
While the Portuguese was arguably exaggerating when he branded Chelsea's title challenge "impossible," it is certainly true that a loss to Stoke would see them fall off the pace substantially.
Will Chelsea win the Premier League?
And they will need to reverse the precedent of this season if they are to claim the three points they so vitally need. Back in December, Stoke recorded a thrilling 3-2 win at the Britannia Stadium when Oussama Assaidi grabbed a last-minute winner.
However, Chelsea should find comfort in their superb home record—they have not lost a game at Stamford Bridge all season and have conceded just nine goals from 14 games, per ESPN FC.
Meanwhile, Stoke have recorded just one away win since August—a 4-1 victory over Aston Villa—per BBC Sport.
Hazard needs to fire
Much has been said recently that Chelsea's lack of a top-quality striker may cost them dearly this season, and it certainly seems that a dearth of goals from up front has been a problem.
Indeed the below comparison, courtesy of Sky Sports, shows the added value of having a truly world-class striker:
However, up until recently, the Blues were bagging the goals from midfield. Their top scorer for the season, Eden Hazard, has 14 league strikes this term.
But the Belgian has not scored a domestic goal from open play since the beginning of February, per BBC Sport, a period in which Chelsea have dropped eight points from seven games.
They need their talisman to start firing again if they are to regain their momentum and make a genuine tilt for the title.
Stoke looking to the top
Peter Odemwingie's winner against Hull last time out moved Stoke up into 10th in the league, and Hughes' side are aiming to record their first-ever top-half finish in the Premier League.
They have lost only one of their last nine league games and will be looking to take advantage of Chelsea's recent dip in form to keep their run going.
With fears of relegation quelled by their recent good form, the Potters now have the platform on which to play relatively pressure-free football.
Nigerian international Odemwingie will pose the greatest goal threat: He has scored three goals in his side's last three outings, per BBC Sport.