Stoke always comes at the worst possible time. Now, to be fair, there's no good time for Stoke, like, ever, but lately it's come at the time when the last thing Chelsea needed was a Stoke.
Team winless in a month? Here comes Stoke! Team destroyed by Falcao, then draws with QPR and Juventus? Here comes Stoke! Team loses at home to QPR, then loses at home to Swansea City, going scoreless for all 180 minutes? Here comes Stoke! World class manager trying to salvage a season? Here comes Stoke! New and unproven manager from Portugal? Here comes Stoke! Club legend trying to find his feet as a replacement manager? Here comes Stoke!
It's a good thing Stoke is generally isolated and contained within the confines of a football ground. Who knows what sort of pandemic we'd be facing if it ever got out into the wild. Not even Didier Drogba would have the power to stop that.
Stoke City: Drago. Unbeaten at home. Strong, powerful, dirty. People either love it or hate it. They must break you.
I'm not sure this can be emphasized enough, but this team is unbeaten at home. A grand total of zero teams have walked out of there with three points this season. And while Chelsea faced a similar situation at Everton, Everton is no Stoke. There is only one Stoke and this is it. This is the Stoke. They must break you.
Whatever little actual football substance that we may expect from Stoke has been reviewed by Lamin, who may or may not be a Burmese King. Watch your right thumbs!
Chelsea: Rocky. Beaten. Bruised. Battered. Small, quick. People hate it, but that's just because of the whole Cold War thing with Roman. Win everybody over with style, they shall.
Despite best intentions, it will be tough to play with any style in this one. One-nil to the rugby team goes the famous chant, however Petr Cech is set to miss out. We could've used his rugby cap. Hopefully then it'll be 0-1 to the non-rugby team, instead.
John Terry came through unscathed in his 45 minutes of Reserves action on Thursday so he'll probably make the bench. There are no other fresh injury news to report.
I have a friend who's turning 50 tonight and in his own honor is hosting a cornhole tournament at a local bowling alley-slash-bar. As depressing as it is that I'm old enough to associate with people who are 50 and who are not my parents, the upside is that I'll still be drunk by the time this match rolls around. Because make no mistake, this one rates close to a 10 on the "Should I drink copious amounts for this Chelsea match?" chart.
Date/Time: Saturday, January 12, 2013, 15:00 GMT; 10 A.M. EST; 8:30 P.M. IST
Venue: Britannia Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent
TV Information: none (UK); ESPN Deportes (USA); ESPN (India)