Chelsea will go level on points with seventh-placed opponents Stoke if they claim their fourth consecutive win this weekend at Stamford Bridge.
The Blues are now looking more like the imposing team that cruised to the Premier League title last season, having scored nine goals in their past three matches, and they entered the top half of the table for the first time since Jose Mourinho’s departure with victory at Norwich on Tuesday.
If the hosts avoid defeat on Saturday, Guus Hiddink will become the first manager in Premier League history to start his reign with a 12-match unbeaten league run; in fact, if the league had begun in January, Chelsea would be joint top alongside Tottenham.
Despite their improvement, their defensive frailties remain existent; they haven’t kept a clean sheet at the Bridge in the previous seven games.
Stoke’s 1-0 victory against Newcastle at a windswept Britannia Stadium on Wednesday was their third consecutive league win, a run which has breathed fresh life into the Potters’ season after they had lost the preceding three matches.
They have only ever won four Premier League games in a row once before, in 2011, so a win in west London would equal history as well as giving the team real confidence in their push for European football.
However, the Potters’ recent record in the capital will not provide the travelling fans with much confidence; they have lost eight and won just one of their last 14 Premier League games in London, and haven’t won at Chelsea since 1974.
The hosts remain without John Terry, who continues to battle against a hamstring problem, whilst Spanish winger Pedro will also be absent for Hiddink’s side.
Stoke are missing several first-teamers for the visit to Stamford Bridge, with Phil Bardsley joining Geoff Cameron, Ryan Shawcross, Charlie Adam, Glen Johnson and Marc Wilson on the sidelines.
League Position: Chelsea – 10th (39 pts); Stoke – 7th (42 pts)
Previous Meeting: Stoke 1-0 Chelsea (November 7, 2015)
Form: Chelsea – WDDWWW; Stoke – LLLWWW
Key Men: Chelsea – Diego Costa; Stoke – Xherdan Shaqiri
Shoot Says: Chelsea 2-0 Stoke