Premier League Preview: Chelsea v Stoke City
By Football News
Two defeats in five days have dealt a major blow to Chelsea's quest for silverware and they can ill-afford another setback versus Stoke City.
The London club slumped to a 3-1 UEFA Champions League quarter-final first-leg defeat against Paris Saint-Germain at Parc des Princes on Wednesday on the back of a shock 1-0 Premier League loss at Crystal Palace.
Manager Jose Mourinho lamented a "ridiculous" last-gasp goal from Javier Pastore in the French capital that has left his Chelsea side up against it heading into the second leg of their clash with Laurent Blanc's men.
The Portuguese may have to wait at least another year to become the first manager to win Europe's premier club competition with three different sides and the domestic top-flight title may also elude him in his first season back in England.
Mourinho also expressed frustration with his side's lack of firepower after he employed Andre Schurrle in an unfamiliar role as a striker before bringing on Fernando Torres in the second half.
Spain striker Torres has scored just nine goals this season and one in his last 11 appearances, while Demba Ba has rarely featured under Mourinho and appears to be on his way out of Stamford Bridge.
Samuel Eto'o has been sidelined with a hamstring injury and Chelsea will be hoping the Cameroon international is fit enough to return against Stoke as they strive to get their push for the title back on track.
Chelsea are now second in the table with six top-flight games remaining, two points behind leaders Liverpool and the same margin clear of Manchester City - who have two games in hand.
The Stamford Bridge outfit suffered a 3-2 defeat at Stoke back in December before gaining revenge with a 1-0 FA Cup victory against Mark Hughes' side the following month.
The defeat at relegation-threatened Palace led Mourinho to question the mentality of some of his players and they will have to be up for the battle against a Stoke side who head to the capital in fine form.
A 1-0 victory against Hull City last weekend stretched Stoke's winning run to three matches and they are now unbeaten in their last five - a sequence of results that has seen them move up to 10th.
They have a poor record at Chelsea, though, losing their last seven games at Stamford Bridge and failing to score in their last six visits.
Brazil midfielder Ramires will not feature for the hosts once again as he completes a three-match ban, while Eto'o's fitness will be monitored ahead of the game and it remains to be seen if Ashley Cole (knee) will return to the squad.
Stoke will be without knee-injury victims Robert Huth and Oussama Assaidi.