In an earlier life, I used to be quite an avid Championship/Football Manager player. As I'm sure many of you can relate, I used to spend days and days and weeks and months playing that game. Helpfully, the developers included a sort of internal clock, which counted the amount of real life days spent in-game. When it clicked past 365 days, I figured I had a problem.
Now, in fairness, I'd leave the game open for hours and hours in the background, tabbing over to play a turn or two (especially when computers were slower and processing took many minutes), so it was hardly all "active" playing time, but it was certainly an "active" feature of my life. Certainly active enough to invade idle thoughts.
So every time the in-game scheduler would match me up in one of the cups with an opponent who I was also scheduled to play in the league right around that same time, I knew the AI had it in for me. Inevitably, in one of the two games, I'd suffer a silly defeat, outshooting the opponent 30-1 yet lose because some random goalkeeper would put in a Jack Butland-esque performance. Or my best penalty taker would change up his approach and see his kick saved in the decisive fifth frame. Cosmic forces conspired against me and I'd almost never win both games.
At least that's how I remember it. I may have been paranoid, but that didn't mean they weren't out to get me, right, José?
Fortunately, we already put in our required loss against Stoke City in these two almost back-to-back trips to the Britannia. Victory, therefore, is guaranteed. Trust me.
Date / Time: Saturday, November 7, 2015, 17:30 GMT; 12:30pm EST; 11pm IST
Venue: Britannia Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent, England
Referee: Anthony Taylor — Taylor's performance in the final match of 2014 calendar year, a 1-1 draw away to Southampton is what really started us down this paranoid road of campaigns and other such shenanigans. It was a bad enough job that he even apologized for it. Then, he officiated our League Cup final victory over Spurs, before overseeing the Community Shield loss to Arsenal. I'll take League Cup over the Shield. Overall, Chelsea have won 7 of 13 matches officiated by Mr. Taylor.
Forecast: A wet morning will turn into a drier, cooler afternoon and evening.
On TV: Sky Sports 1 (UK); NBC, NBC Universo (USA); Star Sports 4 / HD 4 (India); elsewhere
Online: Sky Go (UK); NBC Sports Live Extra (USA); Star Sports (India)
Stoke City team news: The hosts will be expected to field a more dangerous lineup this time around, with Bojan back healthy again and Shaqiri likely to start over the less spectacular Jonathan Walters (who used up his moment of magic in the League Cup match, surely). Stoke remain without defenders Marc Muniesa (who reinjured his hamstring) and Geoff Cameron (who's still nursing a thigh problem). Chelsea loanee Marco van Ginkel will once be unavailable.
Last weekend, Stoke only managed a scoreless draw away at Newcastle. That sort of makes us twinsies, as do our respective league positions, 14th and 15th. Strange days. The Potters are the only team left in the Premier League who has yet to hit double-digit goals on the season. We helpfully gave up 3 to a similarly non-prolific Liverpool side last weekend; let's not do that again.
For more on Ryan Shawcross, Charlie Adam, and the rest of Stoke City Rugby Football Club, be sure to check out Rob's opposition analysis.
Chelsea team news: Courtois and Falcao remain out; Ivanovic remains a slight doubt as he returns from his hamstring injury. Baba Rahman did well enough on Wednesday that we can probably trust him, though I think if Ivanovic is ready to go now (rather than after the upcoming international break), it will be him and Azpilicueta patrolling the outer defensive flanks.
With Mourinho persona non grata on stadium premises this weekend — he will be watching from the team hotel or perhaps roaming the streets with an iPad and a fancy Technicolor overcoat — it could truly be a most unique sacking even for Chelsea Football Club should this prove to be his final match. Then again, in large part due to the win on Wednesday and the tremendous show of support from the fans, talk of a managerial change has almost completely died out. Hopefully, that's a good sign, rather than just the calm at the center of the hurricane.
Previously: Last week's 1-1 draw in the League Cup featured some pretty decent Chelsea play, as did the Champions League match just a few days ago. Now we need some of that in the Premier League.