Chelsea overcame a tricky test against Stoke City with all the style and steel of a title contender built to last the course, with goals from John Terry and Cesc Fabregas enough to earn a well-earned 2-0 victory at the Britannia Stadium.
Stoke have built a deserved reputation for giving top teams an almighty test on their own patch, but had the wind well and truly knocked out of their sails by a bullet header from Terry after two minutes.
Terry nodded home a Fabregas corner to provide the perfect platform to build upon, with the game sealed late on by the Spanish maestro himself after a masterful performance in a more advanced central position behind the striker.
Fabregas deserves man-of-the-match honours after helping Chelsea ensure they stay three points clear at the top of the table heading into Christmas, but Eden Hazard, Nemanja Matic and Cesar Azpilicueta were also magnificent.
Blues boss Jose Mourinho looked back at these kind of testing away fixtures last season as one of the main reasons they fell just short of the consistent standard required to win the title last year, this season looks a very different story.
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Thibaut Courtois: 7
Blues stopper only has two saves to make all night, but looked his usual commanding self after a welcome return from injury.
Cesar Azplicueta: 7
Spanish full-back justified his return at the expense of Filipe Luis by scarcely putting a foot wrong all night, while regularly showing the kind of desire to get forward that's made him such a firm favourite under Mourinho.
John Terry: 8
Early goal was a clever piece of play the Chelsea skipper may not get credit for, spotting the space in behind a wandering Peter Crouch and taking full advantage. Another towering display in defence to match.
Gary Cahill: 7
Taken some flack in recent weeks but was back to something approaching best tonight, although he was given very little to do.
Branislav Ivanovic: 8
Simply has to keep his place in the team on this evidence, winning 67% of his aerial duels and proving a powerful presence to keep Marko Arnautovic quiet to match.
Nemanja Matic: 9
Hard to downplay just how important he is to Chelsea on nights like this. Breaks up play like no other midfield enforcer in the Premier League and with Jon Obi Mikel set alongside in midfield the Blues looked utterly impenetrable.
Jon Obi Mikel: 7
Quite surprisingly got the nod and clearly enjoyed the midfield battle. Better in possession than he gets credit for and helped Chelsea stem the tide in the early part of the second half to prove it. Played his part in nullifying Bojan completely.
Brazilian playmaker looked dangerous out wide, with Stoke unable to handle him on a few clever darts inside in particular. Should have played Fabregas in when the games was 1-0 though, with decision making still an aspect he needs to work on.
Cesc Fabregas: 9 (Man of the match)
Chelsea's main man was exceptional in a more advanced role, linking play and finding Costa consistently. Goal and assist to show for his efforts and in truth if Costa had his shooting boots on Fantasy Football managers would have been even more pleased this evening.
Eden Hazard: 8
Chelsea will hope the Belgian winger is not out of their busy run of festive fixtures, because tonight he was fantastic. Didn't let a terrible early tackle from Phil Bardsley stop him stretching the match wide open when required. Not afraid from putting in a shift at a place like Stoke, which is absolutely essential when you play for Mourinho.
Diego Costa: 5
Mourinho's one negative from a truly awesome team performance. Didn't make the most of two gilt-edged chances, a performance most unlike a normally ruthless finisher from close range. Movement was still very good though, which bodes well for upcoming showdowns with in-form West Ham United and Southampton.
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