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Chelsea 5-0 Stoke: Talking points from the Blues' comfortable win
Last Updated: 30/12/17 5:35pm
From Danny Drinkwater's stunner to Stoke's struggles, we pick out the talking points from Chelsea's 5-0 win...
The Blues had an easy afternoon on Saturday, cruising past an injury-hit but below-par Stoke side to, temporarily at least, move up to second in the Premier League.
Antonio Rudiger, Pedro and Drinkwater were all on target in the first half before Willian scored from the spot and Davide Zappacosta fired in a fifth after the break. Here, we pick out five key topics...
Chelsea's perfect warm up for Arsenal clash
Chelsea couldn't have asked for a better warm up for Wednesday's important trip to Arsenal.
Stoke may well have been suffering an injury crisis to what was already the most-breached defence in the Premier League, but Chelsea took full advantage of the visitors' lacklustre start at Stamford Bridge to storm into a 3-0 lead after just 23 minutes.
Chelsea - who had allowed Cesc Fabregas, Eden Hazard and Tiemoue Bakayoko to rest on the bench - were then able to take their foot off the gas and enjoy a confident win, as they waltzed to the most comfortable of victories, adding another two to their tally in the second half.
With the three players coming into the side - Pedro, Drinkwater and Willian - all scoring, this also turned into a useful exercise in morale boosting ahead of what will be a far sterner test at the Emirates Stadium in midweek.
Drinkwater's moment of magic
From the cushioned thigh control to the stroked volley into the top corner, Danny Drinkwater's first goal for Chelsea was a moment to remember for the midfielder. And his passionate celebration showed what it meant to him to show off his quality after a frustrating start to his Blues career.
It was the first time he'd hit the net since February, when he scored in Leicester's win over Liverpool, on what was just his third Premier League start since his summer switch to west London.
The goal also capped a controlling performance in the middle of the park, in which Drinkwater had more touches, made more tackles and recorded more passes in the opposition half than any of his team-mates. He'll hope his display convinces Conte to trust him against Arsenal in four days' time.
Willian on song
After making just one Premier League start between the October 14 loss at Palace and December 12 win at Huddersfield, Willian's form makes you wonder why he hasn't had more game time under Conte this season.
The Brazilian scored one and set up two in that 3-1 win at Huddersfield on his return to the starting XI and he delivered the same return on Saturday, producing a sublime cross for Rudiger to head home the opener before feeding Pedro and then converting from the penalty spot himself in the second half.
Willian's total of six key passes was twice as many as any of his team-mates managed, while his nine crosses was more than double the number recorded by any other Chelsea player. He was a constant threat.
Chelsea building momentum
This victory moved Chelsea up to second place in the Premier League, prior to Manchester United's evening clash with Southampton. It's the highest they've been at any point in this campaign and, after early season slip-ups on the field and speculation off it, the defending champions' form warrants credit.
They've now won 10 of their last 13 Premier League games, scoring 26 times and conceding just six.
It would be title-winning form if the gap to Manchester City wasn't still at a seemingly insurmountable 13 points. And even if Chelsea were to beat Arsenal and then extend their hot streak through a series of winnable games before they face the Manchester clubs back-to-back at the end of February, a successful defence now looks beyond them.
But this run sets them up well for an important start to 2018. With a Carabao Cup semi-final with Arsenal in January, before a daunting Champions League last-16 tie with Barcelona to come in February, Conte will be pleased to see his team hitting their stride after an, at times, frustrating first few months of the season.
Struggling Stoke's focus now on Newcastle
A win over West Brom and then draw at Huddersfield were ideal Christmas gifts for Stoke boss Mark Hughes, easing the pressure after a run of five defeats in six games. But injuries to defenders Ryan Shawcross, Erik Pieters, Glen Johnson and Bruno Martins Indi, coupled with the unavailability of Kurt Zouma, left his side with an unenviable task at Chelsea.
Three first-half goals from the hosts suggested the scoreline could easily become a big one if Stoke were to fold in the second 45, but while they only conceded two more, it was clear that by that point both teams were already thinking of their next outing.
For Stoke that is a crunch home clash with fellow strugglers Newcastle on Monday. Such a short turnaround time will present its own problems for both teams but Hughes' concern will surely be finding a fit and able backline to deal with Rafa Benitez's men and finding some way of producing a cutting edge to take three points.
While Peter Crouch is likely to be recalled to the starting line-up, Saido Berahino continues to look unlikely to be the man to deliver that decisive moment. The once so highly rated 24-year-old spurned a good one-on-one chance on Saturday, shooting straight at Thibaut Courtois. His last goal was now 37 appearances ago, in February 2016 for West Brom.
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