Stoke City welcome Chelsea to the Britannia Stadium on Monday evening with Mark Hughes’ side already proving a very tough proposition for many of the Premier League’s leading clubs.
Stoke are currently 12th in the top flight but they have defeated Manchester City, Newcastle United and Arsenal this season while giving Liverpool and Manchester United a run for their money.
Chelsea will begin to see the fixtures pile up in the second half of the season as Jose Mourinho’s side remain in all four competitions, but they have the squad to cope and they will want to start the festive period as they mean to go on with victory against the Potters.
Stoke injury concerns: Marc Muniesa has a hamstring injury and a 50/50 chance of featuring next week while Bojan Krkic is expected to overcome a hip problem. Steven Ireland is currently ill but should also recover in time.
Stoke absences: Victor Moses is out until late-January with a thigh injury while Steve Sidwell and Peter Odemwingie are also unavailable.
Chelsea injury concerns: Thibaut Courtois is expected to recover from the muscle injury that kept him out last weekend while Kurt Zouma has a strong chance of getting over the head injury he suffered against Derby County. Didier Drogba should also recover from an ankle issue.
Chelsea absences: Nathan Ake is side-lined with a hamstring injury.
Predicted starting line-ups:
Stoke – Begovic, Bardsley, Shawcross, Wilson, Pieters, Cameron, N’Zonzi, Walters, Arnautovic, Diouf, Crouch
Chelsea – Courtois, Ivanovic, Terry, Cahill, Azpilicueta, Fabregas, Matic, Willian, Hazard, Oscar, Costa