John Terry scored in his 650th game for Chelsea and Cesc Fabregas added another in the second half to give the Blues a three point lead on Christmas. The visitors got off to the best possible start as their skipper scored from a corner inside two minutes. Although Stoke never let Chelsea run away with the game, Diego Costa had a couple of good chances to make it 2-0 but he fluffed his lines on both occasions. Thankfully for the Blues, it didn’t matter as the Potters were unable to create any clear cut chances and Fabregas scored in the 78th minute to seal all three points.
Here are the major talking points from the game.
Battle at the Brittania
A clash between the Premier League’s tallest side and a Mourinho side who had the meanest defense in the League was always going to be a tight affair. Trips to the Brittania have always been difficult and with Stoke unbeaten in their last six Monday night games and Chelsea losing just one of their last 20 fixtures on Monday, something had to give.
Even in a season in which they are trying to be more technical, there are very few sides in the League who can match them in terms of physicality. Unfortunately for the Potters, they ran into one of those sides on Monday. The addition of John Obi Mikel alongside Nemanja Matic was the ultimate respect for the home side and acknowledgement that irrespective of their form so far, the Blues knew that they will be in a fight. That proved to be the case as both sides went at each other in a match that at times resembled a battlefield as both sets of players were fully committed in the tackle. In the end, the visitors’ quality up front shone through, but it wasn’t an easy win by any stretch of the imagination.
Bojan showing plenty of promise
When Stoke City signed Bojan Krkic from Barcelona over the summer, not many were convinced that it would work. After all, he had spent a few seasons in Rome, Milan and Amsterdam without ever fulfilling the potential he showed when he became the youngest Barcelona player to feature in a La Liga match. Many thought that he would struggle to get to grips with the physicality of the League.
But after a slow start, the 24-year-old is starting to show signs that he might well be the bargain of the season. Against Chelsea, although he struggled to shrug off Matic and Mikel who marshalled him brilliantly for much of the game, he still showed glimmers of quality when on the ball. He looked the side’s most composed and confident player in the attacking third. Not only did he want the ball, but also showed that he can get away from big strong midfielders and cannot be bullied away from the ball. If Stoke can keep him fit and give him the ball more than they did against the Blues, they stand a very good chance of finishing in the top half of the table.
Can anyone catch Chelsea?
Without a win away from home since the start of November, the Blues knew fully well that nothing less than a win would do, against a Stoke side who had lost just two home games in the last four seasons against last season’s top four. Mark Hughes had the best record of any manager against Mourinho and it looked as though Stoke might just extend Chelsea’s recent away day blues.
But Mourinho’s men showed plenty of character and composure to come through one of the toughest away assignments of the season with all three points. With a tough set of fixtures over the festive period, the League leaders couldn’t have afforded a repeat of the corresponding fixture last season, but, as it stands, they are top at Christmas. And the last three times they were top at this stage, they won the League on each occasion, which is certainly an ominous sign for the rest of the League.