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Best Twitter Reactions As Chelsea Drew With Stoke And Three Things We Learned From The Game

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guus hiddink

Chelsea went into today’s match with a hope of grabbing the three points and move up to 7th in the premier league table, leapfrogging Stoke in the process. However the 1-1 draw kept Chelsea in 10th place and Stoke 7th. Guus Hiddink has been unbeaten in his first 12 Premier League games since taking over from Jose Mourinho at Chelsea, and he now holds the record for the longest streak without losing for any manager at the start of his tenure at an EPL club.

Stoke finally stopped their winning run as they came in to this match with decent form, winning three straight games to climb within touching distance of the European places.

Let us have a look at the three things we learnt from this match.

Champions league in mind.

From today’s Chelsea’s line-up it could be made out that they fielded a side with one eye, perhaps on the Champions League last 16 second leg at home to Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday. Hiddink opted to name Cesc Fabregas on the bench and deployed John Obi Mikel in midfield, while Baba Rahman returned and Willian was restored to the line-up due to Costa’s enforced absence.

While many might have questioned this move of the Chelsea manager, it actually seemed like a wise one. While the premier league seeming out of contention for the defending champions, the Champions League still seems within grabs. They have lost the first leg away 2-1 to Paris St. Germain and a simple 1-0 win at home will take them to the quarter-finals.

Hiddink wanted to make sure that one of his best players is rested and is available for the all-important match next week. Fabregas has been a completely different player this season since the departure of Mourinho and Chelsea’s revival towards the later stages of this year’s campaign can be hugely credited to Cesc’s improved performances.

Chelsea still a striker short.

The defending champions were without Diego Costa – who has scored or assisted 12 goals in his last 10 Premier League appearances – due to a tendon injury. Bertrand Traore was named in the starting line-up and both Remy and Pato were named on the bench. The entire match Chelsea were missing the presence of someone like Costa up top.

In the most part of the first half, Traore had barely touched the ball in a meaningful position, with most of the good play occurring via the team-mates behind him. This was until the 39th minute when he went one way outside the box, and had the time to turn back in the other direction onto his left foot, and cracked a stunner high into the far side. A sheer moment of brilliance from the young lad. But then came the second half and he was again poor.

Almost no impact till the 68th minute and was finally substituted by Loic Remy. Remy had no impact on the match whatsoever. The centre forward position of Chelsea seemed absent for most part of the match. I doubt if Pato would have hardly made any difference had he come on. The lad has come from the Brazilian league and given his past injury problems, he will need some time to adjust to the English premier league. Chelsea need one more quality striker except for Costa.

Possession based football by Stoke

Mark Hughes might have had looked up a few Van Gaal games or two and had applied the possession based form of football in this match. Well as interesting as it may sound, Van Gaal’s philosophy actually works against the big teams and Hughes might have tried to impersonate the same. And it did work. Getting a point at Stamford Bridge where they haven’t got any point in the premier league era is quite an achievement.

Stoke started this match with some good possession and more or less followed the same, but they allowed their defensive line to get caught too high up, and they were lucky that a pass through to Willian in the first half was just over-hit. Stoke continued to look the better of the two teams most of the times, and they were showing a propensity to win more of the 50-50’s in midfield. The strategy was simple. Just keep the possession, allow Shaqiri to get free, pass him the ball and then let him create some magic. And he did do it a few times.

In the 59th minute he got the ball in a pocket of space and suddenly accelerated, taking him past two players and into the box. He fired a fine low finish across the body of the goalkeeper, but a late hand from Courtois diverted it around the post. Finally the strategy worked in the 85th minute and Mame Biram Diouf headed in an equaliser for the Potters.

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