Chelsea v Stoke City at Stamford Bridge
Where to Watch
Kick-off is set for 3 pm BST and live radio coverage is available on BBC Radio 5 live. You can also follow the match via live commentary on Chelsea TV and through real time updates via Gamecast on Soccernet.
The defending European champions conceded a late equaliser to Fabio Quagliarella after new signing Oscar produced two stunning long-range efforts, in a three-minute period, to give the Blues a 2-0 lead. Chilean midfielder Arturo Vidal scored the Italian champions' first goal. The result, coupled with Shakhtar Donetsk's 2-0 home win over FC Nordsjælland, means Roberto Di Matteo's side are third in Group E after Match Day 1.
Predictably, nobody at Stamford Bridge was pleased with the result, least of all club owner Roman Abramovich, who reportedly turned up at the club's training grounds the next day to ask his players what happened. The Daily Mail reports he spoke to everyone - the players, the coaches and the manager.
"We have regrets, as we were 2-0 up and couldn't win it. Juve are full of quality, we knew that, and it is difficult to play against them. We made a few mistakes in defence and allowed them to score two goals," Di Matteo confessed. However, he was quick to praise his star of the night - 21 year old Brazilian Oscar, declaring the youngster had a "fantastic" debut and was "tactically perfect".
The Blues will want a quick return to winning ways... not only for self-confidence and to ease the pressure on them... but to send out a statement to title rivals in England and on the continent. And while a hardy Stoke side may not be their first pick, at least it won't be another top-tier side they have to face.
Di Matteo's men enjoyed a storming start to the Premier League, with new signing Eden Hazard in imperious form. The scoreless away draw against QPR was the first points they've dropped so far this season and they absolutely cannot afford anything other than three points against Tony Pulis' side for one simple reason. These are title rivals Manchester United, Manchester City and Arsenal's next fixtures:
- Liverpool v Manchester United at 12.30 pm BST on 23 September
- Manchester City v Arsenal at 3 pm BST on 23 September
There is every chance at least one of the Manchester clubs will drop points and this is absolutely the perfect time for Chelsea to put some daylight between themselves and their rivals... and answer Abramovich's questions.
Can they beat Stoke City?
Pulis' side has a very decided reputation - that of a team which is hard to beat. The fact the Potters have drawn all four games so far (this includes home draws against Arsenal and City) lends credence to the claim. Di Matteo will need all of Oscar and Hazard's guile (goals from £50m Fernando Torres wouldn't hurt either) to win this one.
Stoke have been surprisingly good so far this season. In fact, if we discount the games against the Gunners and City, Pulis' men were unlucky not to beat both Reading and Wigan (conceded a late penalty in the former match and forced Wigan keeper Ali Al Habsi to work very hard to rescue a point for his side). If those two games had been won the Potters would actually be level with Arsenal and City at this point!
The bottom-line is that Stoke have struggled in their two games against big teams... and both times they played at home. How much more trouble will they find themselves in at Stamford Bridge, against a side eager to get back to winning ways and with likes of Oscar, Hazard and Mata waiting to pick their locks is a question that will worry Pulis.
Chelsea Team News
Forward Daniel Sturridge may be unavailable; the England international was removed during the game against Juventus with a hamstring problem and faces late tests to determine fitness. More worrying for Di Matteo is that Oscar, the star of the night, may be ruled out for quite some time following the injury inflicted by Juventus centre back Leonardo Bonucci. The 25 year old Italian appeared to stand on the Brazilian's ankle as he fell, forcing Di Matteo into demanding UEFA action.
"The referee did do nothing about many challenges," the manager explained, adding, "The game has finished now for us. If UEFA has a look then good. But we have to move on from it. We will have to assess him [Oscar] tomorrow morning but he got a knock on his ankle."
The good news for Di Matteo is that the club has no other injuries or suspension. Therefore, given their title rivals will be playing each other this weekend, and they only play Wolves (Carling Cup) next, expect a strong Blues side.
Probable Line-Up: Cech; Ivanovic, Terry, Luiz, Cole; Ramires, Mikel, Lampard; Hazard, Torres, Mata
Stoke City Team News
Pulis' primary concern will be to replace defender Andy Wilkinson. The 28 year old has accepted a violent conduct charge levelled by the FA (for an incident involving Mario Balotelli in the game against City) and will miss three games - including the trip to Anfield. His replacement is likely to be 23 year old Ryan Shotton.
The other concern for the manager will be the probable absence of Mali striker Mamady Sidibe. The 32 year old pulled a groin muscle in training and although is well on the road to recovery, may not be fit enough to face the Blues. His absence is not likely to be felt too much though... Pulis can call upon any of Peter Crouch, Cameron Jerome, Kenwyne Jones, Jonathan Walters and, of course, Michael Owen. The former Liverpool, Real Madrid and Manchester United striker made his Potters' debut as a substitute in the 1-1 draw against City, albeit only for a minute or so. The veteran England international is still feeling his way back to full fitness and is therefore unlikely to start a match just yet but expect him to come on with a bit more time, this time, to show what he can do.
Probable Line-Up: Begovic; Shotton, Huth, Shawcross, Wilson; Nzonzi, Whelan, Walters, Kightly; Adam; Crouch
Roberto Di Matteo's men will have too much for Stoke. Yes, Pulis' side have ground out four draws in as many games... but you can't draw all 38 games in a season and this will be their first defeat of the campaign.
Chelsea 3 - Stoke City 1