Chelsea continue to struggle creatively despite their high possession average (54%) whilst Stoke City’s defensive strength is steadily rising: conceding just three goals in their last five league games, this match is likely to closely mirror the constrictive, gritty 1-1 draw in the Capital One Cup in October.
Stoke’s attacking threat is likely to be minimal (9.9 shots per match, fewest in the division), mostly because of the increasingly cowered 4-5-1 defensive shape they take up during sustained periods of opposition pressure and Xherdan Shaqiri’s struggles in English football (2.5 unsuccessful touches per match). They have scored just four times at the Britannia this season.
It is difficult to pinpoint a tactical area most likely to conjure a goal for Chelsea, considering five of their 13 league goals have come from set-pieces. But one area of potential weakness in Stoke’s defence is Glen Johnson, who often lacks composure against high pressing teams.
Johnson has been dispossessed 1.5 times and dribbled past 1.5 times per match this season, more than any other player in the Stoke squad.
Meanwhile, Baba Rahman was handed his first start for Chelsea in midweek; this match presents the perfect opportunity for him to attack with gusto and stake his claim for a regular starting spot.
He will be joined on that flank by either Oscar or Eden Hazard, and though the Brazilian was useful against Dynamo on Wednesday, Hazard would be more effective for this match.
Hazard’s key passes are consistent with his record last year (2.6 per game), but his successful dribbles have gone down from 4.8 to 2.8 per match; his confidence may be low at the moment, but the slow and error-prone Johnson is the perfect opponent to help him re-find form.
Stoke City vs Chelsea LIVE ANALYSIS with Stats Zone
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