Another date with destiny
Chelsea hold the key to their own destiny, against Stoke they face the first of three must win games. If they are all won, the Premier league trophy is guaranteed a return to Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea must play better than they played against Tottenham at the Lane last week or their advantage over Man Utd will disappear along with their grasp on the title.
In the Premier League, the history books show that never has the leading team with four games to go, not won it. Chelsea need to face each game at a time, Liverpool should provide a far sterner test for the Blue boys than Stoke, yet Pulis' side cannot be underestimated.
Chelsea will need to pay special attention to Rory Delap, the former Southampton star has a deadly long-throw and he has been the bane of many Premier League defences. In the past, some defenders with the blessing of their managers have preferred to boot the ball away for a throw-in rather than an opposition corner.
Chelsea are without John Terry, the Captain is suspended due to his sending-off against Tottenham last week. Carvalho, Mikel and Essien are all unavailable for Stoke's visit. It will be important for Alex and Ivanovic at to concentrate at set pieces and further their understanding, too often Terry is the only defensive general commanding the back line. Ashley Cole should feature, pleasing not only Ancelotti but also his countryman Capello.
Ancelotti has an important pre-match decision concerning Drogba's fitness. With Liverpool the following week, he may decide to leave the big man on the bench so that his hernia problem is not aggravated pre Anfield. Anelka is 7/2 for first goalscorer, he often shines in-front of the cameras, especially when he plays as the lone striker upfront.
For Stoke's arrival at SW6, they should have Shawcross available after long term injury and ex-West Ham winger Etherington may feature.
Under Scolari's stewardship last season, Chelsea were losing with a few minutes to go, until the introduction of Stoch changed the game and led to Lampard scoring a late injury time winner. A Chelsea win is 1/7, I believe it will be a formality but not as easy as many pundits predict.
I would back the Match Handicap Market, Stoke +2 goals at 29/20. Stoke are a resilient side and they harbour ambitions of a top ten finish. Although they have little to play for, some Stoke players will be playing for their futures with Pulis looking to enhance his squad in the summer. They will not lie down but Chelsea should eventually break them down!
Stoke are 18/1 for the win but they are poor away from home and rarely with all due respect, does a club of Stoke's stature leave the Bridge with more than a point.
Ancelotti's Chelsea have already beaten Stoke once in the league and once in the FA Cup this season. After Man United knocked the stuffing out of Spurs, Chelsea must come out of the blocks quickly against Stoke or they may find themselves visiting Anfield next week with an uphill task.