Who: Stoke City vs. Chelsea
What: English Premier League, Week 22
Where: Britannia Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England, UK
When: Saturday, January 12, 2013
Weather: The Weather Channel forecast
Time: 3:00 p.m. GMT; 10:00 a.m. ET; 7:00 a.m. PT
Television: ESPN Deportes, ESPN3 (US)
Computer: ESPN 3 link
Worldwide Live Streams and TV Channels: LiveSoccerTV.com
Radio: SiriusXM satellite channel 94 (Internet channel 94)
Referee: Andre Marriner
3-Way Odds: Chelsea -109, Stoke City +275, Draw +220
Total: Over 2½ +110, Under 2½ -149
Decimal Odds: Chelsea 1.91, Stoke City 3.75, Draw 3.20
Decimal Total: Over 2½ 2.10, Under 2½ 1.67
Fractional Odds: Chelsea 91/100, Stoke City 11/4, Draw 11/5
Fractional Total: Over 2½ 11/10, Under 2½ 67/100
Source: sportsbook.com (Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles)
Stoke City, unbeaten at home in their Brittania Stadium so far (5-5-0), welcome Chelsea to Stoke-on-Trent on Saturday in the Blues' return to English Premier League play.
The Potters (6-11-4) and goalkeeper Asmir Begović have allowed just seven goals at home so far this season in 10 games, and the 6'5" Bosnian provides a Petr Čech-like presence in Stoke's goal.
Manager Tony Pulis has his team in 10th place in the Premier League table, and scrappy Stoke City are led in scoring by Jonathan Walters (five), Peter Crouch (four), Kenwyne Jones (three), Michael Kightly (two) and Charlie Adam (two).
Statistically, Stoke play low-scoring games, with just 41 goals (21 goals for, 20 goals against) in 21 matches, and have registered the most draws (11) in the top flight.
The total in all Potters games to date is a remarkable 15-6 to the under.
Chelsea (11-5-4) come into this match in fourth place and off of a disappointing 2-0 loss to Swansea City at Stamford Bridge in the first leg of their Capital One Cup semifinal on Wednesday and an equally frustrating 1-0 loss to 20th-place Queens Park Rangers on Jan. 2 in their last league fixture.
The Blues did pound Southampton, 5-1 between those two setbacks in their third-round FA Cup game at St. Mary's Stadium.
Although they have scored 39 goals in the Premier League with Fernando Torres (seven), Juan Mata (seven) and Frank Lampard (six) setting the pace, the Blues have scored only three goals in their last four games.
Under interim manager Rafael Benítez, Chelsea—which are tied with Manchester City in allowing an EPL-low 19 goals—have really clamped down on defense, allowing only three goals in their last five games.
Chelsea will have to do it defensively against host Stoke without Čech, who continues to heal from his groin injury sustained against Everton. This means Ross Turnbull will again likely get the call for the European champions.
But despite Čech's absence, the Blues could get center-back John Terry back, according to a recent story in the Guardian—the 32-year-old reportedly played the first half of a match with the under-21 side at the club's training ground on Thursday, according to Sky Sports.
The captain has been recuperating from a knee injury sustained against Liverpool on Nov. 11 when he collided with Luis Suárez.
The Blues have dominated this series recently, going 8-2-0 over the last 10 and outscoring the Potters 20-3 with a mind-numbing seven clean sheets. You read it right: seven clean sheets.
Anyone watching closely this season knows that Chelsea have been choppy at best, and that Stoke City have been stellar at the Britannia.
Meaning, anything can happen here.
Taking a shot with a play on the home Potters with a healthy +275 has its logic behind it, including the fact that Čech won't be out there to work his magic.
Chelsea won this season's first meeting at Stamford Bridge—a 1-0 score on an Ashley Cole goal—and this one should play out the same way: low scoring, with one goal being all that's needed for a victory.
Way back on Sept. 22, when Roberto Di Matteo was the club's manager, the team was in first place in its league and a proud participant in UEFA Champions League.
Now Benítez is riding the royal blue-painted horse on the team's coaching merry-go-round, and Chelsea are in fourth place in the Premier League—just two points ahead of Everton fighting for that automatic Champions League qualifying spot—and ready to play on Thursday in the Europa League.
My, how things have changed for the Blues since that day.
As far as the forecast here, a mistake or a bad call may be the difference in this one, and Stoke's Crouch and Chelsea's Demba Ba should play pivotal roles.
The Blues will have to do everything right to score on Stoke City and Begović. But their lucky charm is back, and with so many potential scorers on the roster, expect Chelsea to find a way to win this one and hand the Potters their first home loss.
BETS: Chelsea -109, Under 2½ -125
PREDICTION: Chelsea 1, Stoke City 0
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