Mourinho wasn’t able to beat Liverpool and earn himself a stay of execution—and yet he’s still about, the first undead manager in the Premier League. When his team take on Stoke, make sure and check his neck for stitches. The Potters come into this game still giggling after their penalties win against Chelsea in the League Cup. Mark Hughes will be confident his charges can repeat the victory this weekend, despite Chelsea’s Champions League win midweek. But who is best for your FLIP Sports fantasy team?
The return of their captain has given Stoke a timely boost coming into the winter run of games. Shawcross is feeling his way back into form, playing the full ninety minutes twice since his return from injury. He did his job against Newcastle too, helping Stoke keep a clean sheet for just the second time this season. The ex-Manchester United youth player is now a veteran defender in the league and at 28 years old should be in the prime of his career. Considering some of the talent in this Stoke side they really should be higher in the table, something Shawcross will be keen to address when motivating and directing his teammates.
Matic has been one of the poorer performers for a Chelsea side that have struggled badly this season. Although Mikel can do the job of defensive midfielder he is simply no match for the Serbian when he’s on form. Against Dynamo Kyiv midweek, Matic was finally able to put in a performance worthy of the shirt—a sign that perhaps the Blues can actually start winning games in the league. Chelsea fans will be hoping that despite Mourinho’s stadium ban this team will still be motivated enough to bring the game to Stoke—and they will need Matic to be at his imperious best if that’s going to happen.
If Costa had not been battling injury so much this season perhaps Chelsea’s results would have been better. Remy and Falcao have not been able to string together any good performances between them, and with Hazard’s drop in form no one is creating chances either. Somehow managing to escape censure for the incident with Martin Skrtel in his last match, Costa has the chance to revitalise his season and help turn around his team’s fortunes. His typical combative play won’t intimidate Stoke though, who still possess a little of that Pulis physicality that made them so loathed a few seasons ago.
Stoke would be a good deal lower in the table (and out of the League Cup) if it weren’t for the heroics of England’s Number-One-in-waiting. Jack Butland has started to realise some of the great potential he was bought for, now that Begovic plays for the visitors, having made more saves (46) than any other goalkeeper in the Premier League this season.