What a difference a year makes.
Twelve months ago, Chelsea were licking their wounds. Mourinho had been sacked. Hiddink had drawn his first two games. The ship was sinking. Rats were running amok and looking for the nearest exit. No confidence, no fight, no hope.
Today, Chelsea are guaranteed to end the first half of the season at least three points clear of everybody else, six with a win, and perhaps even more given that second place Liverpool and third place Manchester City face-off in the final game of the calendar year. Conte has already broken the club record for most consecutive league wins (12) and has matched the club record for most consecutive wins in all competitions (9). A win today would match Arsenal's single-season Premier League record at 13. The stuff of wildest dreams coming true.
2016 may have been a weird, scary, uncomfortable year for many, but for Chelsea, it's been a great journey from the depths of the Premier League to the top.
Alas, the title is not awarded at the halfway point. So, time for more hard work. More fight. More concentration. Always improve.
Date / Time: Saturday, December 31, 2016, 15:00 GMT; 10am EST; 8:30pm IST
Venue: Stamford Bridge, SW6
Referee: Robert Madley — Is Bobby Madley the worst referee in the Premier League? Possibly! That said, last time he refereed a Chelsea match, we beat Everton 5-0.
Forecast: Overcast and damp; not quite New Year's fireworks weather.
On TV: none (UK); CNBC (USA); Star Sports Select HD1 (India); elsewhere
Streaming online: NBC Sports Live Extra, Telemundo Deportes En Vivo (USA); Star Sports (India); BBC 5 Live (UK; radio); Chelsea TV (int'l; radio)
Chelsea team news: Chelsea's winning run goes on, as does the squad's clean bill of health. The only player not available is Pedro, who picked up his fifth yellow card on Monday and is thus suspended. Similar fate would await David Luiz and Nemanja Matić against Spurs were they to pick up a card in this one. (Will Conte thus rest one or both them? Maybe.)
Chelsea are winless in three against Stoke, but anything other than a Chelsea win today would be surprising and disappointing. The Blues welcome back Diego Costa and N'Golo Kanté from suspensions as well.
Stoke City team news: Stoke got off to a poor start this season, had a good October and November, and have gone back to being terrible. They've lost their last two away games, against Liverpool and Arsenal, by a combined 7-2 scoreline.
Stoke will be without Marko Arnautovic once again as he serves the final game of his suspension, while theoretically dangerous players Bojan and Wilfried Bony have been out of favor for some time. Stoke still showed decent attacking threat against Liverpool last time out, and underestimating the likes of Xherdan Shaqiri could be dangerous, but Chelsea should be expected to handle their business.
Previously: There once was a 7-0.