Premier League leaders Chelsea will try to extend their winning run to 13 games on the trot when they welcome Mark Hughes’s Stoke at Stamford Bridge on the last day of 2016.
The easiest way to describe Chelsea and their impressive Premier League performances this season is to say they are close to being perfect. Former Juventus manager Antonio Conte is doing a wonderful job in his debut season at Chelsea, during which we was able to demonstrate the full scope of his tactical versatility. The switch to 4-3-3 system sparked the beginning of impressive winning run which currently stands at 12 games in a row for the Blues. Chelsea have staked their claim on the Premier League title and will be hopeful to end the year best way possible when they welcome out-of-form Stoke City. A comfortable 3-0 win over Bournemouth has set the tone for the final match of the year for which Antonio Conte will welcome back his first-choice striker Diego Costa and the tireless runner N’Golo Kante, who are returning to the fold having both served their bans.
Antonio Conte is likely to get back to his best XI with Eden Hazard switching back to the left after being employed as a false nine last time out. With Costa and Kante back in the fold, Chelsea will only have captain John Terry unavailable for selection.
Back-to-back Premier League triumphs over Watford and Burnley marked the beginning of a bleak December for Mark Hughes’s men. Stoke City have failed to win any of their last four matches in the league and are continuing with the busy festive fixture list in low spirits. The Potters face another tough challenge as they go head to head against another title challenger in less than a week. Hughes will most certainly hope for a different outcome than the one at Anfield on Tuesday when Stoke suffered a compelling 4-1 defeat at the hands of Liverpool. Stoke failed to keep hold of an early lead which was secured by Jonathan Walters after only 12 minutes of play as Liverpool eased past the Potters, courtesy of goals from Lallana, Firmino, Imbula’s own goal and Sturridge’s curtain dropper. Sitting in the bottom part of the table, Stoke City could suffer another drop which could potentially see them move from 13th to 15th place in the standings.
Mark Hughes is struggling with selection issues as Stoke manager is unable to call upon the injured Bardsley, Butland and Cameron, whereas the talismanic striker Marko Arnautovic is still under his red-card suspension.
We struggle to see past the home win in this particular matchup. Stuttering Stoke are unlikely to pose any real threat to high-flying Chelsea, who are looking for another three points and a convincing display that would be a perfect introduction to the London derby with Tottenham which opens the new year’s tally.
Top pick: Chelsea/Chelsea 1.87 (20/23) @Coral
Alternative pick 1: Diego Costa to score anytime 1.70 (7/10) @WilliamHill
Alternative pick 2: Chelsea to win to Nil 2.00 (1/1) @BetVictor