Who: Chelsea FC vs. Stoke City FC
What: English Premier League Week 33
Where: Stamford Bridge, west London, England, United Kingdom
When: Saturday, April 5, 2014
Weather: The Weather Channel forecast Stamford Bridge
Time: 5:30 p.m. GMT 12:30 p.m. ET/9:30 a.m. PT
TV: NBC, NBC Sports Live Extra (US); Sky Sports 1/HD (UK)
Worldwide Livestreams and TV Channels: LiveSoccerTV.com
Radio: SiriusXM FC SIRI 94 (Internet 94), TalkSport Radio
Referee: Lee Probert
3-Way Odds: Chelsea -400, Stoke City +950, Draw +530
Total: Over 2½ -125, Under 2½ +105
Decimal Odds: Chelsea 1.25, Stoke City 10.50, Draw 6.30
Decimal Total: Over 2½ 1.80, Under 2½ 2.05
Fractional Odds: Chelsea 1/4, Stoke City 19/2, Draw 53/10
Fractional Total: Over 2½ 4/5, Under 2½ 21/20
Alternate Odds: Chelsea -2 +140, Stoke City +2 -170
Chelsea -2½ +180, Stoke City +2½ -220
Over 1½ -400, Under 1½ +300
Over 3½ +200, Under 3½ -250
First Half: Chelsea -½ -175, Stoke City +½ +145
Over 1 -135, Under 1 +105
Chelsea -170, Stoke City +1200, Draw +160
Odds to Win Premier League: Manchester City 4/5, Liverpool 7/4, Chelsea 13/2
3-Way Odds: Chelsea -500, Stoke City +1400, Draw +525
Total: Over 2½ -130, Under 2½ +110
Source: LVH SuperBook (Las Vegas, Nevada, USA)
How things have changed in a week for Chelsea FC.
Heading into last weekend, the Blues were on top of the English Premier League table as they headed across London to Crystal Palace. And they were hoping for a pretty decent showing midweek against Paris Saint-Germain in France in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League quarterfinal.
As you well know by now, neither endeavour went real well for Chelsea.
So, tired, bruised and now drowning in fear and doubt, Jose Mourinho and his Blues must get it together real quick and it all starts on Saturday with this home game against Stoke City at Stamford Bridge.
And despite what it looks like on paper and how it seems like just another game in The Special One’s monster home league unbeaten streak, this 90 minutes-plus against the Potters will likely be another excruciating rollercoaster ride which will inevitably leave both Blues players and fans feeling as dizzy as Miss Lizzy made Larry Williams feel back in 1958 before Mourinho was even a twinkle in his pappy’s eyes.
Stoke City (10-10-12) enters the fixture in 10th place and come in off of a very successful March in which it won four of five matches and earned 13 points, evaporating any potential talk of relegation with its impressive play. But the Potters—winners of three straight games and fourth in the current EPL Form Table—will be playing a very angry Chelsea team at the worst possible time in the worst possible place.
Winning in west London has always been a difficult thing for Blues’ opponents but under Mourinho there is an even deeper commitment to protecting that oh-so sacred home soil and it’s now been 76 straight games since somebody has beaten Chelsea at The Bridge so Stoke (2-4-15 on the road; 15 goals for, 30 goals against) and manager Mark Hughes—a former Blues player himself—will have to do absolutely everything right to pull off the monumental upset.
And the Potters certainly can.
When these two met earlier this season at the Britannia Stadium at Stoke-on-Trent, the home team upset Chelsea, 3-2, as Oussama Assaidi scored the game-winner at the 90-minute mark. Andre Schurrle gave the Blues an early lead before human beanpole Peter Crouch leveled it for the Potters right before half-time.
Stephen Ireland gave Stoke a 2-1 lead in the second half before Schurrle tied it with his second goal of the game a little bit later, setting up the dramatic ending. So, Chelsea and their fans will no doubt see that first result as a reason for revenge while the Potters and theirs will see it as a reason to think they can beat the wobbly and now scoring-deprived Blues.
Oh to only be able to spread a couple of those six goals from the Arsenal game around just a little bit.
With absolutely nothing to lose, Stoke is in a great spot here and would love nothing more than to squelch Chelsea’s title hopes in front of the home SW6 crowd. With the always dangerous Crouch (eight goals, five assists), new signee Peter Odemwingie (four goals) and guys like Charlie Adam (six goals, three assists), Wilson Palacios, Jonathan Walters and Marko Arnautovic (five assists), Hughes and this gritty team are just the type of team to snap Mourinho’s epic home unbeaten run.
Chelsea (21-6-5) will enter this game in second-place in the Premier League table, owners of the league’s most-stubborn defense (24 goals allowed) behind long-time goalkeeper Petr Cech. But the big problem for the Blues of late seems to be the offense, in particular getting substantial scoring from the striker position.
It's pretty hard to park the bus when you can't score.
Here against Stoke, the ailing (hamstring) Samuel Eto’o (eight goals) will hopefully be ready and get the nod over the much-maligned Fernando Torres (four goals) and Chelsea will definitely need the 33-year-old* Cameroonian to come through in a big way over the coming weeks.
Also expected to put on pressure on Potters goalkeeper Asmir Begovic for Chelsea will be midfielders Eden Hazard (14 goals), Oscar (eight), Andre Schurrle (seven), Nemanja Matic and vice-captain Frank Lampard (five), who will likely be in the starting XI with Ramires wrapping up his three-match suspension.
Scoring should be extremely minimal in this match and if Stoke can somehow tally first, the pressure on the already neurotic Blues will be immense. But the Potters have just one goal in their last five trips to Stamford Bridge and Chelsea has dominated the last 10 meetings, going 7-2-1 (21-5 goals) and registering an impressive seven clean sheets along the way.
The last time these two clubs met in January, the Blues emerged 1-0 home victors in the fourth round FA Cup play while this fixture in west London last season also ended with a 1-0 scoreline. So, is there another 1-0 game possibly in the stars? How do I know, brother? Do I look like Miss Cleo or something? Mercy. Desaparecer por favor. Gracias.
One thing for Chelsea to be worried about is its stamina after traveling home from France and facing PSG midweek in a soul-wrenching 3-1 loss at the Parc Des Princes in Champions League play.
And besides Eto’o’s hamstring ailment, Ashley Cole and Marco van Ginkel are still both out with injury and Lampard (35), captain John Terry (33) and Cech (31) must be surely be feeling their ages a bit with yet another changing season.
So better double up on that Geritol order, Eva. And while you’re at it, could you order an old Celery Head a big ole box of Depend undergarments? I have a coupon. Danke schoen, sister. You are always so kind to me. They’re for my pet tiger Richard Parker. Richard is a Hull City fan. And please don’t try to pet him. He’s still mad about the Eldin Jakupovic loan to Leyton Orient. Silly tigers.
Anyway, like all of them these days, this game is another real big one. And I can’t help but think that management and managers' decisions over the last couple of seasons have made this current season much harder than it had/has to be and that guys like Daniel Sturridge, Romelu Lukaku, Juan Mata, Kevin De Bruyne and even the aging Didier Drogba would have made the never-ending job of trying to collect some more coveted silverware much, much easier.
Just a thought.
Nevertheless, this Blues team seems to always buckle down and find a way to win when it needs it most and it really needs the three points and confidence here with Liverpool and Manchester City—who meet next Sunday at Anfield—looking stronger than ever right now. Gary Cahill or Cesar Azpilicueta or maybe Matic seem due so maybe the defense can provide a little offense in lieu of the ongoing Striker Flu.
Best start praying for Eto’o tonight, bubba.
The royal blue fun continues again on Tuesday with the critical second leg at Stamford Bridge against Les Rouge-et-Bleu in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals (FS1, 2:45 p.m. ET/11:45 a.m. PT) followed by an EPL match in Wales against Swansea City (April 13).
We shall see.
PREDICTION: Chelsea 1 Stoke City 0
BETS: Chelsea -170 (First Half), Stoke City +2½ -250, Under 2½ +110
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