Vital Stoke Previews : Stoke V Chelsea
The Britannia Stadium
14th August 2011
It's the start of the Premier League season and after a fantastic year last time around, the Potters will be chomping at the bit to get an early 3 points on the board in front of the SKY cameras as they face runners-up Chelsea in what promises to be a highly-charged encounter with 26,000 Stokies roaring their team on.
Chelsea paid £13 million to bring Andre Villas-Boas to Stamford Bridge. As it happens, the same amount of cash saw Tony Pulis buy all of Ryan Shawcross, Robert Huth, Matty Etherington and Jermaine Pennant.
However, the new Blues boss was very complimentary towards Stoke, labelling the Potters 'Magnificent' :
' It's Stoke away. It's one of the magnificent teams of the Premier League a team that - last year - although finishing in the bottom half of the table, managed 10 wins at home.
'It's a very emotional stadium, so it's good to have this kind of high challenge straight away on the first day of the premiership.'
Chelsea Captain,John Terry, also had some very kind words to say :
'It's an incredibly tough opening game for us,' he said. 'It is never easy going to Stoke, because they are a great team with great players and a great manager'
Meanwhile, Tony Pulis after a simply stunning season last year, can't wait to send his players out on Sunday to tackle last year's Premier League runners up, promising a baptism of fire for their new manager :
'The Premier League is where you have to prove yourself, regardless of what you have done in the past.
'It will be nice to meet Andre and he can certainly expect a lively welcome to the Premier League.'
Stoke City Team News:
The former dynamic duo of Ricardo Fuller & Mamady Sidibe both remain sidelined whilst Danny Higginbotham won't be playing for a while yet.
Matty Etherington(cracked rib) and Rory Delap (Hamstring) are nursing knocks but both are expected to be fit whilst new signing Jonathan Woodgate is in contention for a start after a brilliant performance in Split.
Player to watch: Kenwyne Jones
The 26-year-old notched 9 Premier league goals last year, but it could have been even better. A player with big potential and now seemingly reaching his peak, he'll be expecting to be in the goals this year and with Chelsea's physicality from set pieces and their no-nonsense approach at the back, the Trinidadian could prove to be a deciding factor in tomorrow's game. Not only will he need to bully Chelsea's defence as he did in last year's fixture, but he'll be integral in defending set pieces against the likes of Drogba, Terry and Ivanovic.
Chelsea Team News:
Fernando Torres has been suffering mild concussion after a collision but is expected to feature.
Defender David Luiz will probably be breathing a sigh of relief after being tormented by Jon Walters in the fixture last year - the Brazilian has been ruled out of the game with an injury and possible Stoke-target Danny Sturridge will also miss out as he is suspended.
Player to watch: Didier Drogba
A brilliant footballer who always causes us problems both on the air and on the deck, the likes of Huth and Shawcross will have to be at their imperious best to keep the 33-year-old quiet as the Ivory Coast striker seeks to impress his new boss.
Like Kenwyne Jones, he will be expected to defend plenty of set-pieces as well as forcing the issue in attack.
Match Facts & Stats
Chelsea are a fantastic side who have every right in believing they can to come away from Stoke with the points, but it's Villas Boas' first competitive match and the pressure and electrifying atmosphere will no doubt make it very hard for the Blues. Judging on our fixture last year - I believe the Potters will get a point. Stoke City 1-1 Chelsea
Stoke face Swiss team FC Thun in the play-off stage of the Europa league on Thursday, but the next premier league encounter is away to Newly-promoted Norwich City on Sunday 21st August