No Stoke Without Fire

Hands up who would rather have played Manchester City this weekend? Just me I expect. With hindsight, I’m guessing most people would rather see Stoke at the Bridge this weekend after the battering we got from City.

My main reason for not wanting to see Stoke at the Bridge this weekend, though, was fear of a battering of a different sort. That said, it’s hard to imagine any more injury woes this season, so we just have to get on with it.

Consider this, though. Stoke have lost just five games on the road this season. That’s less than four other teams above them in the Premier League, and don’t think for one second they’ll be fielding a weakened side against us.

Tony Pulis doesn’t understand that sort of nonsense and will use what he’s got as effectively as he can. So with this being Stoke City’s only chance at silverware – some might argue ours too given recent form – we can expect a very tough game, in more ways than one.

Carlo Ancelotti is starting to come in for a bit of stick from Chelsea fans now, who are starting to see the light fade at the end of what is proving this season to be a very long and windy tunnel, so he’ll be looking for solid performances in this match given the fundamental errors that cost us against Manchester City. Players alike, particularly with the gutter press continuing their relentless pursuit, will be looking for a solid and hopefully uneventful match.

Pause and take a deep breath while we consider who Carlo won’t be able to pick for this match. Belletti and Ballack are suspended; Essien, Cech, Ashley Cole and Jose Bosingwa continue long-term recuperation from injury; Zhirkov and Deco are doubtful, as is Carvalho who returned from international duty with a knock.

Tony Pulis, however, has no such worries. Aside from missing Ryan Shawcross through suspension, Pulis can look to a full squad with the likely return of Matthew Etherington and Danny Higginbotham from recent injuries.

As much as the FA Cup is loved for its excitement and ability to throw the form book out of the window, what would be really nice to see at the Bridge this Sunday is a game free from drama, injuries, schoolboy error and referees trying to get themselves in the spotlight.

A Chelsea win, 2-0 without fuss, please.