Kick off: 00.00
Venue: Britannia Stadium
Live: BeIN Sports 11HD
Jose Mourinho knows Chelsea must prevent a repeat of last season’s nightmare trip to Stoke if they are to re-establish their three-point lead at the top of the Premier League.
Mourinho’s side travel to the Britannia Stadium 48 hours after Manchester City’s 3-0 victory over Crystal Palace drew the champions level on points with the Blues.
City are behind the leaders only on goal difference and while Chelsea boss Mourinho insists his team will not feel any extra pressure, anything less than victory will hand Manuel Pellegrini’s team a major lift heading into the busy Christmas period.
And if they are reassert their early standing as favourites to be crowned champions, Chelsea must improve on last December’s showing at Stoke when individual errors contributed to the home side’s 3-2 victory.
But Mourinho is confident his team have learned their lesson and are more than capable of matching Mark Hughes’ side.
“We played so well collectively last season but we made two individual mistakes that cost us the game. This is also part of the game,” Mourinho said. “We have to play our football. Our football is the way we believe.
“That’s part of our project for this club. We have to go there and play our game, but we know well their qualities as a team, and their qualities individually.
“We also have to adapt to it. If we know we are going to play against Peter Crouch and against the kind of defenders they have – if you don’t adapt to that, you are in trouble.
“We can adapt to that because we have qualities that allow us to do that.”
Crouch’s aerial threat and Stoke’s physical strengths will provide a testing examination for Mourinho’s line-up, which should include fit-again goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. But Mourinho is confident his team can negotiate the festive programme successfully.
“Every team has to play these four matches in a short period of time. Everyone is in the same circumstances,” he said.
“For us it’s difficult: three away games and only one at home, a London derby against one of the best teams in the competition.”
Chelsea have found themselves at the heart of the simulation debate this week after several high-profile incidents during last weekend’s 2-0 win against Hull.
Diego Costa and Willian both received yellow cards for dives at Stamford Bridge, while City boss Steve Bruce claimed Gary Cahill went down “like something out of Swan Lake” in the penalty box.
Mourinho believes an independent panel retrospectively punishing divers would be a “disaster”.
“The independent panels don’t do their job well in any case,” the Portuguese said.
“When you go to an independent panel to analyse and suspend players by video evidence, it is a disaster. It is a disaster.
Players to watch:
Mame Biram Diouf (Stoke City)
The Senegal international has proved an astute summer purchase, performing well upon his return to the Premier League. Forms part of a lively trio behind lone striker Peter Crouch. Will look to find space on counter-attack, cutting inside from out wide.
Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
Hazard is on verge of signing a huge new deal at Chelsea (Dhs 1.1 million per week), with the exuberant winger worth every penny. Provides inspiration to the Chelsea attack, a constant danger with the ball at his feet. Has pleasant memories from playing at Stoke, scoring a screamer in 2012-13.
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