Here's something that sounds bad: it's been almost a month since Chelsea and us fans have tasted victory. A month! That was so long ago, Raul Meireles was still a Chelsea player. I wonder what he's up to?
The mood has gotten a bit testier during that time. A good ol' shellacking in Monaco at the hands of Falcao, followed by two disappointing draws have put us in need of a victory. Not a desperate need by any means, but a need nonetheless. Let's call it a 'I haven't showered in four days and I have a job interview with a garbage trucking company tomorrow' need. And I mean that as a company that hauls garbage, not passing judgement on the quality of their trucking.
Speaking of garbage...Stoke* come to town. HIYO!
Date/Time: Saturday, September 22nd, 15:00 (BST); 10:00 AM (EDT); 7:30 PM (IST)
Venue: Stamford Bridge, London SW6
TV Information: none (UK); FSC (USA); ESPN (India)
* actual football-like substance optional; quarterback- / basketball-style!
Was that a bit harsh? Am I setting up for failure and utter disappointment? Probably not. Because if there's one thing I learned from the stock market is that past performance is* a 100% indicator of future results.
Stoke have not beaten Chelsea since the mid '70s. Stoke are on a 10-match winless streak. Stoke have not won an away fixture in the Premier League since January when they beat Blackburn Rovers who have since been relegated. Stoke have lost their last 16 matches away to the "Big Four". Stoke have opened this season with four straight draws, although that does put them on double the points of Liverpool. In short, Stoke are* terrible and Chelsea are* guaranteed a victory.
Stoke City: Some dude named Andy Wilkinson is suspended. Apparently he had an off-the-ball incident with Mario Balotelli. To me that sounds like the start of a good night and fun memories, but the FA disagrees and have thusly slapped Wilkinson with a three-match ban. Spoilsports.
Wilkinson's replacement, quarterback-style, will most likely be Geoff Cameron. Another American, Maurice Edu could be in line for his debut, while Michael Owen "hopes" for a start, much like a desperate, unshowered man might hope for a garbage trucking job. And we've come full circle.
Tony Pulis (who, to my endless amusement, wears 'TP' on all his tracksuits) will no doubt set up his team in the formation of the future, with two banks of four and a tall and a short/fast up top. They will scratch, they will claw, they might even play some
Michael Oliver will be the match referee. His name sounds suspiciously close to Michael Owen, so I'm sure the fix is in.
Chelsea: Daniel Sturridge missed out on Juventus with a hamstring injury, which has now lingered into the weekend. I have no doubt he caught this affliction from Marko Marin. Bet you didn't know hamstring injuries were contagious, did you? Speaking of Marko...he will miss out, too. Surprise!
In better news, Oscar has not suffered any lasting ill effects from Leonardo Bonucci's stamp on his ankle, although Di Matteo has called on UEFA to "have a look" at it again. Presumably not just to clear up the pronoun confusion. While I do not think he will (or should) get another start, he will be a wonderful option from the bench, should the team be struggling to get the necessary result.
As the only top four team in action on Saturday, Chelsea will have the perfect opportunity to solidify first place ahead of Sunday's super action (Liverpool vs. Manchester United; Manchester City vs. Arsenal) and before the big test at Arsenal next weekend. The midweek commitment in-between is just a League Cup tie, so this one needs to be for all the marbles.