Chelsea v Stoke: five key battles


Chelsea face Stoke at Stamford Bridge this weekend. Here are five potential battles we think could be important in Saturday’s game.

Cesar Azpilicueta v Marko Arnautovic
Always an industrious worker, Azpilicueta will need to be at his best defensively against Arnautovic’s direct running. The Austrian winger, who has pace in abundance, took his goal tally for the season to 10 by scoring twice against Aston Villa last weekend. He also scored the winner against the Blues earlier in the season.

Kenedy v Xherdan Shaqiri
On the other flank, much will depend on Kenedy’s fitness after he limped off during the midweek win at Norwich, but boss Guus Hiddink believes it is just a minor injury. Whoever plays will face a real challenge against former Bayern Munich and Inter Milan star Shaqiri, who scored Stoke’s winner against Newcastle.

Cesc Fabregas v Giannelli Imbula
Fabregas has looked close to his best again in recent matches. But Stoke invested a club-record £18.3m to bring in Imbula on transfer deadline day and his job will be to break up Chelsea’s midfield rhythm.

Willian v Erik Pieters
Willian should return against Stoke, who will have the ever-present Pieters at left-back. With their defensive injury crisis, the visitors will depend on the Dutchman’s steady reliability.

Diego Costa v Philipp Wollscheid
With captain Ryan Shawcross out with a back injury, Stoke will probably have Wollscheid alongside Marc Muniesa at the back. Costa will fancy his chances.