Chelsea showed they can do just fine without two of their key players, so imagine how good they are going to be again when those two main men return. That is the problem that Stoke City have to deal with, considering Diego Costa and N'Golo Kante are set to make their returns for the Premier League's New Year's Eve match at Stamford Bridge.
Both Costa and Kante were suspended for the Boxing Day game against Bournemouth, but Chelsea, who played without a proper striker, with Antonio Conte deploying Eden Hazard through the middle, still had too much firepower, winning the game 3-0.
That was their 12th straight win in the Premier League and one more against Stoke on Saturday and they will join Arsenal as the record-holders. There is absolutely nothing to suggest this match is going to end with anything but a Chelsea win, especially considering Costa and Kante, two players who have been immense for the Blues this season, are set to return to the starting XI.
While Costa and Kante should come back in, there is a slight doubt over Hazard, who is still struggling with a knee problem. Considering there is a big game against Spurs also coming up, Conte might rest Hazard, even if Pedro Rodriguez, who scored two goals against Bournemouth, is suspended. John Terry is again ruled out.
Mark Hughes will be without Marc Muniesa, Stephen Ireland, Jack Butland, Geoff Cameron and Marko Arnautovic, who serves the last of his three-match suspension, with Phil Bardsley a doubt. Having gone down to Liverpool in midweek, Hughes must find a strategy to somehow stop the Chelsea train.
Whether that will be by using a physical approach, like he did against Liverpool – successfully until it all went awry when the Reds found the equaliser – or by trying to outplay Chelsea remains to be seen. The Blues have ben ruthless on the counter-attack this season, so Stoke will be wary of pushing too many men upfield when they do have the ball.
Expected starting XI: Chelsea: Courtois; Azpilicueta, Luiz, Cahill; Moses, Matic, Kante, Alonso; Willian, Costa, Hazard.
Stoke City: Grant; Johnson, Shawcross, Martins Indi, Pieters; Whelan, Imbula; Shaqiri, Allen, Diouf, Walters.