Kick Off: 3PM Saturday 12th January 2013.
If Reading wanted a blueprint to follow to ensure longevity in the Premiership then Stoke are probably the archetypal plan to follow. A side full of big physical men who don't mind "putting it about" when they want to Stoke City keep making progress under manager Tony Pulis and even if you don't like their style you have to begrudgingly admire what they have achieved.
Two draws a win and a loss in their last four games are par for the course although they surprisingly let three goals in at home to Southampton and the manager will be looking at the video tape "after hours" with his defence.
Against Chelsea, Stoke are without the specialist throwing ability of Delap who is currently sitting out with a hernia problem.
Chelsea have won three of their last four and despite being beaten by QPR at home they played them off the park and can consider themselves unlucky to have been beaten in that game. The 8-0 thrashing of an admittedly weakened Aston Villa showed that despite what the fans may think this team will play for Benitez and he is getting the right blend of attack and defence out of his available resources.
The best change that Benitez has made is moving David Luiz to midfield where his obligatory error won't cost them a goal and his ability more than makes up for his transgressions. John Terry is still out to a knee injury.
You always know what you are going to get with Stoke - a committed effort for all eleven players and any result is going to have to be hard won here.
I'm going to be brave and call the match result here 1-2 Chelsea simply because I think Chelsea are improving under Benitez and I know from his Liverpool days that tactically he can outsmart Stoke.
Essential Match Facts
|Stoke | Team Betting ||Chelsea | Team Betting |
|Position: 10th ||Position: 4th |
|Last Four Match Results||Last Four Match Results|
|Man City 3 Stoke 0||Chelsea 0 QPR 1|
|Stoke 3 Southampton 3||Everton 1 Chelsea 2|
|Stoke 3 - Liverpool 1||Norwich 0 Chelsea 1|
|Tottenham 0 Stoke 0||Chelsea 8 Aston Villa 0|
|Delap - Hernia||P Cech - Groin|
|Wilson - Broken leg||Benayoun - Knee|
Romeu - Knee
|J Terry - Knee|