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Michael Taylor 6th Mar 2010 - 13:28

Fragile Blues can sneak past stern Stoke test

Apparently lightening never strikes twice in the same place, yet if Chelsea somehow lose to Stoke in Sunday's FA Cup quarter-final at Stamford Bridge then we'll all have played witness to an even rarer phenomenon.

Life in West London in never dull whether it's down to secretive billionaires creating a title winner overnight, big name managers coming and leaving on an annual basis or players whipping up a media frenzy for 'extra-curricular activities'.

Ever since Roman Abramovich broke on to the scene in the summer of 2003 nothing surrounding Chelsea has stood still, all except their incredible home form.

So when a previously disappointing Manchester City side makes the usually fruitless trip to the Bridge and storms away with three points thanks to an unbelievable 4-2 battering it raises a lot of questions.

Is Ancelotti the right man to lead Chelsea to Champions League glory? Has John Terry let his private life dictate his professional life? Is there too much experience and not enough youth coming through? Or am I just jumping the gun?

Well this weekend they couldn't possibly ask for a tougher examination of their credentials when Tony Pulis brings his expertly drilled Potters to the capital.

Their siege mentality could be described as predictable, perhaps even over-physical but what Pulis' team lacks in imagination they make up for in innovation with every single squad member knowing to the letter what their role is.

It isn't simply about Rory Delap's long throw or their aerial threat from set-pieces, although they are handy weapons, they're also developing into an extremely accomplished footballing side.

Someone like Sanli Tuncay didn't head to the Britannia to warm the bench or stand out wide lumping in crosses to the big men, they came with the intention of adding that little bit of industry that was lacking at times in their rookie Premier League season.

Saying this John Terry and Roberto Carvalho will certainly know they've been in a battle come six o'clock on Sunday evening and they'll only be happy if they've come away from it with a clean sheet intact.

Personally, judging by recent performances I'm not sure the centre back partnership is capable of keeping Stoke at bay and there's even less chance if horrendous Hilario manages to retain his place in goal.

Luckily at the other end of the pitch the problems are far less apparent with Didier Drogba once again the danger man and a great 5/2 first scorer bet.

Drogba is a handful at worst but when he's in this type of form and looking to exploit a defence missing the presence of Ryan Shawcross then you have to feel for Thomas Sorenson.

It's asking a lot of Robert Huth and Abdoulaye Faye to contain the big Ivorian especially with Frank Lampard and Nicolas Anelka also breaking forward at every available opportunity.

We all know what Chelsea are capable of when they hit top gear and that has to be a massive worry for a Shawcross-less defence - I'm just not sure they'll be able to keep the Pensioners out, with a few goals looking most likely (3-2 Chelsea is great value at 25/1).

The bonus for the Potters if they concede, they can look back at Man City's performance last week and realise Chelsea are fragile.

Over the past week Pulis will have relentlessly told his men not to panic if they fall behind and if they heed the message then they should have enough strength to ensure no easy passage for Ancelotti's men.

They may still fall short (Chelsea 2/7 to win) but I fancy they can be the latest side to show the walls of fortress Stamford Bridge may just be starting to crumble.



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