Rafael Benitez will be delighted to have the services of John Terry to call upon although he won’t start the game after returning from the injury he picked up against Liverpool earlier in the season. Petr Cech will also face a fitness test ahead of the game.
Both Demba Ba and Frank Lampard will hope to earn themselves a recall and many argue that the interim boss waited far too long before bringing them on against Swansea in the cup. Ba was only on the pitch for the last ten minutes but managed to do more in that time than Fernando Torres did with the rest. John Obi Mikel and Victor Moses are on international duty at the African Cup of Nations with Nigeria.
On the opposition, Stoke have no fresh concerns and may see former Chelsea target Asmir Begovic return to the line-up alongside Kenwyne Jones as both were rested last weekend.
C. Azpilicueta – G. Cahill – B. Ivanovic – A. Cole
Ramires – D. Luiz
Oscar – J. Mata – E. Hazard
Stoke are a tough side to beat on their own turf but we have a fairly good record against them in the last eight games in all competitions – we’ve won five and drawn two. Hopefully we can continue that one as we really need three points to put pressure on City ahead of us and distance themselves from the chasing pack.
This is definitely not a game for the meek and Ba has to start ahead of Fernando Torres which should be the easiest decision Benitez will have to make in relation to selection. I’d like to see Terry feature for 45 minutes if he’s up to it as we miss a leader in the ranks.
The midfield seems to be the biggest area of concern as we’re fairly short of numbers there without Mikel or Romeu which also means there’s no natural deep-lying midfielder to initiate attacks and protect the back four. This limits us in a number of ways as there’s no one with the presence of mind to drop into defence and make a back three when one or both of the fullbacks join an attack. A midfield general has to be Chelsea’s priority for the remainder of this transfer window.