This is it. The proverbial cold, wet, windy weekday night in Stoke. It's not quite Tuesday -- which is supposedly the day Stoke is most Stoke-y -- but Monday is probably close enough to count just the same. Much Stokeyness awaits. Can Chelsea do it?
We can all remember when Chelsea failed to "do it" on a Saturday afternoon in Stoke last season, losing 3-2 on a last minute goal from Oussama Assaidi. According to Mourinho, "the best team lost because it made two great mistakes for the first and third goals but we congratulated Stoke." Does that count as evidence of the Britannia stadium's mystical powers? It was Mourinho's first ever test in Stoke, after all. Or does it have to be a Tuesday? I guess we'll find out soon enough.
Meanwhile, Manchester City have closed the gap by winning on Saturday. Three points is a must have.
Date / Time: Monday, December 22, 2014, 20:00 GMT; 3pm EST; 1:30am IST (next day)
Venue: Britannia Stadium Stoke-on-Trent, England
Referee: Neil Swarbrick - Chelsea remain unbeaten (5-2-0) with the 49-year-old Swarbrick in charge after our trip to
Shrewsbury Strawberry Town earlier this season.
Forecast: Mild, but definitely windy and probably wet, too. That's two out of three, if you're keeping score.
On TV: Sky Sports 1 (UK); NBCSN (USA); Star Sports 4 / HD 2 (India); elsewhere
Online: Sky Go (UK); NBC Sports Live Extra (USA); Star Sports (India)
Stoke City Team News: Previously doubtful trio Bojan Krkic, Marc Muniesa, and Stephen Ireland are all expected to be available for selection. Well-traveled Bojan has become a key figure in Mark Hughes' side, especially after Victor Moses picked up his thigh injury. Ex-Chelsea man Steve Sidwell joins the Chelsea loanee on the expected-to-be-back-soon list, while Peter Odemwingie and towering naturalized Slovak center back Dionatan Teixeira are out long term with a torn ACL and a broken leg, respectively.
No longer total slaves to Pulisball, Stoke are running a solidly mid-table campaign this season and are currently unbeaten in two straight. They beat Arsenal 3-2 in their last home game.
Chelsea Team News: Previously doubtful trio of Thibaut Courtois, Didier Drogba, and Kurt Zouma are all expected to be available for selection. I'm guessing* Nathan Aké has now fully recovered from his strained hamstring as well, though I don't expect he'll feature anytime soon. Surely, Ramires is fully match fit now as well.
* No need to guess as it turns out; Aké featured for the U21s against Gladbach earlier this week.
Chelsea have dropped five points in our last two away league games. That's not a good trend, obviously. With a perfect home record so far, the Premier League title just might come down to how well our away record will end up comparing to Manchester City's league best. Three points is a must have!
Previously: Way back on a (presumably) cold October Tuesday in 1974, Chelsea lost 6-2 in Stoke. It was a League Cup 3rd round SECOND replay (apparently second replays were a thing back then). Mickey Droy and Chopper Harris both scored own goals and Geoff Hurst added a brace as Stoke built a 6-0 lead before John Hollins and Tommy Baldwin scored a couple consolation goals in the final. "Poor Chelsea led to the slaughter" rang the headline and the Britannia's predecessor stadium, the Victoria Ground smiled contentedly.