January 12, 2013
No new worries for Pulis
Team Stat Comparison
|Goals for *||1.1||1.8|
|Goals against *||1.2||1.2|
|Last 5 home||L-W-L-L-D||W-D-W-W-W|
|Last 5 away||D-D-W-L-L||W-W-D-W-L|
|* Goals per match - home matches for home club and away matches for away club|
|Stats: Stoke City | Chelsea|
|4/26||H: Tottenham Hotspur||4/27||A: Liverpool|
|5/3||H: Fulham||5/4||H: Norwich City|
|5/11||A: West Bromwich Albion||5/11||A: Cardiff City|
Stoke boss Tony Pulis has no fresh injury concerns ahead of Saturday's Barclays Premier League clash with Chelsea at the Britannia Stadium.
Defender Marc Wilson and midfielder Rory Delap, who have been sidelined by a broken leg and hernia problem respectively, remain the only definite absentees for the Potters.
Pulis is expected to shuffle his pack again after making changes for last weekend's 0-0 FA Cup third round draw at Crystal Palace, where the likes of goalkeeper Asmir Begovic and striker Kenwyne Jones were rested.
Pulis hopes Frank Lampard and Chelsea part on good terms if the "great marriage'' between them is to come to an end.
Lampard looks set for the exit at Stamford Bridge, with his current contract with the Blues due to expire in the summer and his agent claiming he will not be offered a new deal by the club.
The 34-year-old midfielder has enjoyed a trophy-laden career with the west London outfit since joining them in 2001, netting 193 times for them in the process to make him the joint-second highest goalscorer in their history.
Pulis has no doubt Lampard and Chelsea have proved a superb match for each other and feels it would be a huge shame for any separation to be acrimonious.
"I think Frank has been a fantastic player for Chelsea,'' Pulis said.
"He has been unbelievable, and he is a great lad - they tell me he is a real top professional.
"But I think when you step aside, away from being a player, you sometimes look at it a little bit differently, and Chelsea have been absolutely fantastic for Frank as well.
"The medals and the trophies that Frank has won at that football club...as a young kid starting football, he needed a vehicle to be able to achieve what he has achieved.
"Whether the argument is that Chelsea should offer him a new contract or not, it is not my decision.
"But I think it has been a great marriage and you just hope it doesn't end in tears - that they part amicably, and that a true star of a football club walks away with everyone applauding what he has done and achieved.''
Rafael Benitez has backed Fernando Torres to win over the Chelsea boo boys and insisted the misfiring striker's poor performance against Swansea was down to a stomach bug, rather than lack of desire or talent.
Torres put in one of his worst performances of his Chelsea career two days ago. The £50million striker touched the ball just 19 times during his 81 minutes on the pitch and could only muster two feeble attempts on goal.
The Blues fans have stood by their most expensive import despite his patchy form throughout his two-year spell at Stamford Bridge, but on Wednesday they gave the 28-year-old both barrels, sarcastically applauding the player as he left the field having called for Demba Ba's introduction since half-time.
Benitez revealed that part of the reason why Torres did not play well was because the Spaniard had been struggling with illness, and his only other replacement Ba was not fully fit as he had a hamstring injury.
"I could not explain it before the match, because (Swansea manager) Michael Laudrup would have known, but Fernando had a stomach bug and Demba Ba had a niggle,'' Benitez told a press conference.
"The club doctor was giving Fernando tablets, but I told him he had to play because we couldn't play Demba Ba. So Fernando was playing with the problem. I was really pleased with him because he was trying to play despite the problems he had.''
Part of the reason why Benitez was appointed Chelsea's interim manager was due to his good relationship with Torres. It was anticipated that the former Valencia boss, who managed Torres at Liverpool for three and a half years, would bring the best out of the former Atletico Madrid man.
Torres' barracking on Wednesday may prove to be a big blow to relations between the Blues fans and their star striker, but when asked whether he thought Torres could win them around, Benitez said: "Yes, the main thing a player can do is to concentrate on your job and Fernando is really, really trying.
"If he scores goals again it will be easier. Fernando concentrated on trying to do his job (despite his illness) and that is the sign of a great character.
"He is trying to give his best. In training every day he is giving 100 per cent every session. Because the club paid big money everybody is expecting a relation between money and goals to be easy.''
Captain John Terry is in the squad after coming through 45 minutes of the Blues' Under-21 game against Fulham on Thursday, his first appearance since suffering knee ligament damage against Liverpool in November.
Benitez confirmed that the 32-year-old has returned to training and will be in the squad for the game at the Britannia Stadium, but will start on the bench
"He played on Thursday. He was okay,'' Benitez said. "He has been training. He is in the squad.''
Asked whether Terry will start, the Spaniard added: "No, but he is available. It's good news for us. He has been out for 16 weeks.''
Goalkeeper Petr Cech will have a test on his groin injury, while Nigeria duo John Obi Mikel and Victor Moses are unavailable as they are at the African Nations Cup.