Chelsea vs Stoke preview, betting tips and prediction: Blues to add to Mark Hughes' woes

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Chelsea welcome Stoke City to Stamford Bridge in their last Premier League outing of 2017, a year which has seen some very big highs but a few frustrations too. Because Manchester City have proven so dominant in the title race this season, the Blues have not come within touching distance of retaining their crown, but they will still prove too much for their struggling visitors in West London on Saturday.

Antonio Conte’s men have, for the most part this season, got the job done in games. They proved as much on Boxing Day, downing Brighton 2-0 at home. Games against the likes of Southampton and Manchester United have been tipped in their favour by the odd goal, too. Unlike City, they are unlikely to overpower a team for 90 minutes. That said, Stoke have put in some poor performances in away games against the top six already this season, notably conceding 12 in two games at Tottenham and City. There are goals in this one for Chelsea if they want to chase them, but we don’t think they will.

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We are backing a narrow win to pile the pressure on Mark Hughes.

Form 

Without that loss at West Ham earlier this month, their only one since October, Chelsea would be looking very strong. But that result exposed some weaknesses, notably how poor they can be when Eden Hazard is crowded out of the game. Alvaro Morata has struggled with fitness over the last few weeks, but he finally scored his tenth goal of the season against Brighton. Conte will hope he and Hazard combine like they did earlier in the season against Stoke.

The Potters fans are becoming increasingly frustrated with Hughes, who has seen his side regress over the last couple of years. The exciting football he got them playing when he first arrived has evaporated and they have not been getting the results to keep the criticism at bay. They did manage a 1-1 draw at Huddersfield on Tuesday, which followed a win over West Brom, but the battle against relegation doesn’t appear to be getting any easier. The last two results followed three successive defeats and although they are 13th, they are just three points above Bournemouth in 18th with a worse goal difference.

Team News

Chelsea have no fresh injury concerns ahead of this game and could go with the same team that beat Brighton. Conte played all three of his main central midfielders in Cesc Fabregas, Tiemoue Bakayoko and N’Golo Kante with Hazard freed up in behind Morata.

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Stoke, too, have no fresh concerns, though they could start Ramadan Sobhi from the start as reward for his equalising goal at the John Smith’s Stadium on Boxing Day. Mame Biram Diouf and Saido Berahino are also battling for a starting place ahead of 36-year-old striker Peter Crouch, but Hughes could stick with the ex-England man.

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