Stoke City v Chelsea preview: Antonio Conte eyes eight more wins for the Premier League title
By Richard Morgan
Last Updated: 18/03/17 2:09pm
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has targeted eight more wins in order to win the Premier League ahead of his side's trip to take on Stoke City at the bet365 Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The Blues currently lead both Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City by 10 points with now just 11 games left to play this season.
And the Italian is aiming to win eight of his side's remaining league fixtures to claim a first Premier League title in his debut campaign in charge at Stamford Bridge, beginning with the weekend visit to the Potteries.
"We have a target and it is important to try to reach this target," said Conte. "We are ready to face every situation.
"I think we need 24 points to win the league. For us it's important to go game by game without looking forward.
"It is important to beat Stoke and it won't be easy. They are a really strong team; a physical team but also with great players with good technique."
Chelsea ran out 4-2 winners when the teams met in west London in December, although Stoke gave the league leaders a firm examination, twice hitting back to draw level after falling behind.
And Stoke boss Mark Hughes feels his side can take encouragement from that - and the point they earned away at Manchester City nine days ago.
"We gave a decent account of ourselves down there and we obviously had a good performance last time out and so we'll refer back to that as we approach the weekend," said the former Chelsea striker.
"I don't think many people expected us to get any sort of positive result at Manchester City but we were very solid and had a threat up front, so all in all we are in decent shape and good heart.
"Chelsea are playing exceptionally well at the moment, so it will be a tough ask, but I think we can draw encouragement from how we've performed in our last two games."
Marko Arnautovic, Xherdan Shaqiri and Wilfried Bony return to the Stoke squad for the visit of Chelsea.
Arnautovic missed the goalless draw with City through illness while Shaqiri has been absent for six matches with a series of niggling injuries, including a calf problem. Bony was ineligible at the Etihad Stadium under the terms of his loan agreement with City.
Glen Johnson (shoulder) remains out while Jack Butland returned to training this week as he steps up his recovery from a long-term ankle injury in the hope of making his comeback before the season ends.
Chelsea, meanwhile, have two players Conte considers doubts for the game, but the Italian has not revealed who they are.
Victor Moses suffered a knock against Manchester United on Monday, but is already back in contention after returning to training.
David Luiz is also continuing to manage a long-term knee problem, but he is expected to be available.
Stoke have won only two of their 17 Premier League meetings with Chelsea (D3 L12), with both victories arriving at the bet365 Stadium.
Chelsea have recorded just two wins in their last seven visits to Stoke in all competitions (D3 L2) - 2-0 in December 2014 and 4-0 in January 2013.
Willian notched his first-ever Premier League double in the reverse fixture, equalling his goal tally for last season in the competition (5). However, the Brazilian has failed to score in eight league appearances since that game.
Diego Costa's next Premier League goal will be his 50th in the competition and would be the seventh Chelsea player to reach that milestone for the club.
If Costa does score in this game, he will have reached 50 goals in 80 Premier League appearances. The only players to do this in fewer games were Andrew Cole (65), Alan Shearer (66), Ruud van Nistelrooy (68) and Fernando Torres (72).
I can't see Stoke winning this game as Chelsea are head and shoulders above everyone else at the moment. I normally do not back against Stoke at home, but I cannot see anything other than a Chelsea win here as they are looking very good at the moment.
PAUL PREDICTS: 0-2 (6/1 with Sky Bet)
Chelsea are just 8/13 with Sky Bet to maintain their relentless title charge, with Stoke 19/4 for the win and 14/5 to hold the leaders to a draw. Diego Costa heads the first goalscorer betting at 11/4 while Peter Crouch and Saido Berahino lead the hosts' side of the market at 9/1 apiece.