Chelsea bid to exorcise last season’s Britannia ghost and re-establish Premier League cushion

Ross McLean
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TABLE-TOPPERS Chelsea head into tonight’s Premier League clash with Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium aiming to re-establish a three-point cushion at the Premier League summit.

Reigning champions Manchester City hauled themselves level with the Blues courtesy of a 3-0 victory over Crystal Palace at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday, with goal difference the only commodity keeping Jose Mourinho’s side ahead.

Chelsea choked last season in the Potteries as Liverpool loanee Oussama Assaidi netted a last-gasp winner, building on strikes from Peter Crouch and Stephen Ireland while Germany’s Andre Schurrle netted twice for the west Londoners.

But that was Chelsea’s sole defeat on Stoke’s home turf since the seventies as Chelsea have largely immunised themselves against their rivals’ impressive home form since returning to top-flight football in 2008.

The Blues have recorded three league victories and picked up two draws in that time, while Stoke’s much-vaunted home form has been far less intimidating this term with defeats already to Aston Villa, Leicester, Southampton and Burnley.

Chelsea, who recovered their league poise with victory over Hull after surrendering their unbeaten record for the season to Newcastle earlier this month, are set to recall keeper Thibaut Courtois following his two-match absence due to a muscular injury.

Forward Didier Drogba and defender Kurt Zouma are also expected to the available after ankle and head injuries respectively.

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