Stoke City vs Chelsea
Monday, December 22. Kick-off: 20:00
Chelsea have an opportunity to regain outright lead of the Premier League when they meet Stoke City on Monday evening, having witnessed Manchester City claw right back into contention at the weekend.
The champions moved level on points with the long-term leaders after a comfortable 3-0 triumph over Crystal Palace at the Etihad Stadium and, while Chelsea remain top by virtue of goal difference, City would have climbed above them were they to have scored just once more against the Eagles.
But Chelsea will be confident of restoring a three point advantage when they travel to the Britannia Stadium, despite having lost there at the hands of Mark Hughes’ side on their previous visit.
Stoke won 3-2 on that occasion and were able to beat Arsenal by the same scoreline during their most recent outing at home, but the latter remains their only victory in the last five outings in the Premier League.
Chelsea, meanwhile, have lost only once all season and, while that might have come in their last away fixture, Jose Mourinho’s side are the clear favourites to clinch maximum points and regain their position of supremacy.
Mourinho is able to welcome back Thibaut Courtois after the Belgian had missed the club's last two matches, and he takes the place of Petr Cech, whose future remains the subject of much speculation.
Felipe Luis' run in the Chelsea team also comes to an end, having started against both Hull and Derby, with Cesar Azpilicueta once again resuming duties on the left-side of the defence.
Jon Obi Mikel retains his place in the centre of the midfield alongside Nemanja Matic, with Cesc Fabregas tasked with taking the No.10 role. The former Arsenal captain takes the place of Oscar.
Stoke City XI
Begovic; Bardsley, Shawcross (c), Muniesa, Pieters; Cameron, Nzonzi; Walters, Bojan, Arnautovic; Crouch.
Subs: Butland, Huth, Whelan, Wilson, Adam, Diouf, Assaidi.
Courtois; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry (c), Azpilicueta; Mikel, Matic; Willian, Fabregas, Hazard; Diego Costa.
Subs: Cech, Filipe Luis, Zouma, Ake, Oscar, Schurrle, Drogba.
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