Chelsea-Stoke City Preview
LONDON (SE) - Stoke will be looking to extend a 17-match unbeaten home record in the Premier League as they host Chelsea on Saturday.
Tony Pulis' side (6-11-4) have not lost a league match at the Britannia Stadium since Sunderland beat them 1-0 last February. The Potters, who are 10th in the table on 29 points, went 10 top-flight matches without defeat (5-5-0) before losing 3-0 at Manchester City on New Year's Day.
Stoke defender Robert Huth, who spent six years at Chelsea, is determined the Potters will not be beaten by his former club.
"We don't want to lose the home record," Huth told the Stoke club website. "It will be a difficult game though - they've been on a really good run, apart from the QPR game, but we've got a good home record, so it's all to play for really. If both teams bring their top game, it should be a really interesting match.
"As a defender, I always look out for the forwards and attackers, and they've got plenty of them," the Germany international added. "(Demba) Ba's just come in and scored two goals on his debut, and Juan Mata has been a really good player for them."
Chelsea (11-5-4) are fourth in the standings on 38 points but trail leaders Manchester United by 14 and have lacked consistency under interim manager Rafael Benitez.
In league play, they recorded a four-match winning streak over the Christmas period - highlighted by an 8-0 thrashing of Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge on Dec. 23 - before slumping to a 1-0 home defeat to bottom-club Queens Park Rangers on Jan. 2. Their cup form has also been erratic, winning 5-1 at Southampton in an FA Cup third-round match last weekend, but then crashed to a 2-0 home defeat to Swansea in its first-leg League Cup semifinal match on Wednesday.
Benitez could have key defender John Terry back in his squad for the trip to Stoke. Former England captain Terry has been sidelined for two months with a knee injury, but is now back in training and due to play in a Chelsea Under-21 game on Thursday.
"If he feels OK, at least we can start considering him," said Benitez. "It depends on his reaction.
"The good thing he is now training so now he can carry on. We will see how he feels on Thursday and hopefully he can play more minutes in the short term so we will see. At least that is a positive thing because before he was just doing the warm-up. Now he is training and can play so I think we are obviously closer."
The Blues will be without John Mikel Obi and Victor Moses who are representing Nigeria at the Africa Cup of Nations.
Ashley Cole scored five minutes from time to give Chelsea a 1-0 win over Stoke in this season's reverse fixture at Stamford Bridge last September. The Blues dominated possession for 67 percent of the match, but only took one more shot than Stoke (14-13). Chelsea also took 13 corners to Stoke's three.
The Potters have failed to win any of the last eight home contests against Chelsea, coming away with only two draws. Their last home victory over the Blues dates back to April 1975, when both teams were in the old First Division.
Chelsea hold a solid advantage in this fixture, winning 40 of 88 all-time meetings, with Stoke taking 27 wins. There have been 21 draws between the sides who first met in August 1922, a 2-1 Chelsea win at Stoke.