Blues coach knows what to expect from Potters

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Chelsea coach Steve Holland has warned his team of the threat posed by travelling away to the Britannia Stadium this Sunday, as he gives the low-down ahead of the Blues' first fixture of the new season against his former club.

Chelsea have just four days to prepare now that England internationals Frank Lampard, John Terry and Ashley Cole have returned early after international duty, but the assistant first team coach, who took up his new role from the reserves team in June, is raring to go.

"We're all excited about getting up and running," he said. "It's always great to get that first game done, you can train and train but in the end it's about games.

"When you've had six or seven pre-season games, they're competitive but not the real thing and we're all ready now for the real thing and Sunday will present a big task. Stoke in their own stadium is a fixture that will create problems for a lot of top clubs, a difficult first fixture and one where we will be respecting the opposition and problems they can cause.

"Last year they had an FA Cup final, European qualification and have never really been in any trouble since they were promoted and I wouldn't expect them to be this year, which is down to the work of Tony and his staff.


"They get fantastic support from Peter Coates, the chairman, who invests a lot of his own resources into the club and Tony Pulis has paid tribute to that. It's a very well-run club, and their improvement has been great."

Although the 41-year-old former Crewe Alexandra manager remembers his time as Potters coach fondly, he added that it would be business as usual for his first game as Andre Villas-Boas right-hand man.

"I had a very enjoyable five months at the club and worked for some terrific people who were very good to me and very understanding when the opportunity to join Chelsea came up," he added.

"I'll always be grateful for how fair they were with me, and it is a bit extra special going back there but it's all about getting down to business and getting three points on the board."

Frank Lampard should be ready for the weekend, but is resting from training with a throat infection, and apart from Michael Essien's long running knee injury, the squad is at full strength.

"The English internationals will be back in. The younger players have come in in the last few days and it helps the senior players in terms of quality and numbers to do the work we want to do. We've seen the likes of Chalobah, Kalas, Billy Clifford and McEachran have opportunities in this pre-season," Holland continued.

But with all eyes on Sunday, he concluded: "It will be a full stadium and a fantastic atmosphere, and we're raring to go."

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