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Preview: Chelsea v Stoke
22 Apr 2010 - 13:50:51
Chelsea know that three more wins will bring them a third Premier League title, but some of their nervous performances in recent weeks suggest that this could be a trickier prospect than it may look on paper.
First up is Stoke City, who are adept at spoiling parties and will certainly be up for a physical contest at Stamford Bridge.
The Potters put in a tough performance in the FA Cup quarter-final earlier this year yet still lost 2-0 to the Pensioners, with goals from Frank Lampard and John Terry sinking Tony Pulis' Wembley dream.
Of course, Terry will be suspended for this match, having received a red card at Tottenham last weekend, but Chelsea have not lost any of their last 20 league games without their captain, so his absence may not be as crucial as first thought.
Unsurprisingly, Chelsea have a strong recent record against Stoke, winning their last six league games against the Midlanders, but two of Stoke's three away wins this season have come in the capital so they will not be over awed by the metropolitan surrounds.
Furthermore, City have not lost any of their last six Premier League away games, a run which has solidified their position in mid-table for a second successive season.
As well as the suspended Terry, Chelsea will be without fellow central defender Ricardo Carvalho, probably meaning that Branislav Ivanovic will shuffle across into the middle.
Midfield enforcer Michael Essien is nearing fitness but will not be ready for the Stoke game.
Stoke have a trio of regulars on the treatment table, Mamady Sidibe, Ryan Shawcross and Salif Diao, all of whom face a race against time to make the team for Sunday's game.
It also remains to be seen whether Sanli Tuncay will keep his place in the team after storming down the tunnel after being substituted last weekend against Bolton.