Chelsea vs Stoke: 3 Key Battles
Saturday’s late kick-off sees Chelsea take on Stoke, hoping to put their patchy home form to rest. The Blues have drawn their last two home games in the Premier League and haven’t won at home since early February. Having already beaten Manchester City and Tottenham on the road, Stoke travel to Stamford Bridge on the lookout for another high-profile scalp.
Although Jose Mourinho’s side haven’t lost in the league, since the New Year’s Day loss to Spurs at White Hart Lane, their form has certainly dipped. Three draws in their last seven games and the improved form of Arsenal and Manchester United has ensured that the title race is no longer a procession, even if the Blues hold a six-point advantage over second-placed City with a game in hand.
Back-to-back losses to West Brom and Crystal Palace put an end to the Potters’ three-game winning run and Mark Hughes’ side will be looking for a good result on Saturday to kick off another positive run. Here are the three key battles that will decide the outcome of a crucial game in the title race.
1. Jonathan Walters vs Diego Costa
If you asked anyone who has better striker, Stoke or Chelsea, the answer would be unanimously Chelsea. But in terms of numbers alone, that isn’t true. A look at the strikers with the best shot conversion rate in the Premier League this season will tell you that Stoke’s Jonathan Walters is the forward most likely to score from an opportunity presented to him. Although the Irishman has played out wide for most of the season, he is better than Diego Costa, who is third in terms of the league’s best strikers.
Diego Costa’s form since the turn of the year hasn’t been particularly impressive. Even though, he leads the league in terms of goals scored, with more than double the goals Walters has managed, he is only just returning from injury. With Costa unlikely to be at the peak of his powers, the visitors will be looking to their 31-year-old striker to make the most of the opportunities afforded to him. If the Irishman can manage that, a Stoke win isn’t beyond the realms of possibility.