Chelsea v Stoke: Mark Hughes claims Stoke form is better than Chelsea's

Stoke manager believes his side are visiting Stamford Bridge at just the right time

Stoke boss Mark Hughes claims there cannot be a better time for his side to take on Chelsea - but is wary of a backlash this weekend.

The Potters travel to Stamford Bridge on Saturday hoping to take advantage of the title-chasing Londoners' recent wobbles.

Chelsea lost top spot as they suffered a second defeat in three Barclays Premier League outings last weekend, a result since compounded by a Champions League reverse at Paris St Germain.

Stoke, by contrast, are enjoying their best spell of the season having lost just once in their last nine games, and won their last three, to rise to 10th in the table.

Hughes said: "If ever there was a right time to go to a club such as Chelsea, it is when you are going there as a team in form.

"Our current form is arguably better than Chelsea's.

"From our point of view it is certainly the best time to be going, but what you find with top clubs is they bounce back very quickly.

"When questions are asked of them, more often than not, top teams and top players have the answers.

"We have got to be mindful of that and be ready for something of a backlash."

 

Stoke have already beaten Chelsea once this term after Oussama Assaidi - currently sidelined with a knee injury - struck a last-minute winner against them at the Britannia Stadium in December.

The Blues turned the tables after that 3-2 loss by winning January's FA Cup fourth-round meeting 1-0 but Hughes feels his men have improved greatly since then.

He said: "We went there in the cup and we did okay up to a certain point, but we weren't able to force the issue.

"I'd like to think we can improve on that performance and ask more questions this time.

"We are playing better, in comparison to where we were in January.

"I would like to think that our confidence will help us to create more chances.

"It is in a great place at the moment, it couldn't be better. There has been a really good feeling this week and we want to use that and benefit from that at the weekend.

"Going to Chelsea is never easy and Jose Mourinho's record as manager of Chelsea is absolutely unbelievable.

"It will take some undoing, but that is our intention."

Victory for Stoke would deal a hefty blow to Chelsea's title ambitions.

Mourinho has already said his side have lost the chance to finish top, with Liverpool and Manchester City having seized the initiative, but former Chelsea striker Hughes does not believe that.

He said: "I think Jose has been talking for a long time about the fact they are underdogs and they are not likely to win it but they are certainly still in it. I think that is obvious to everybody.

"It is going to go right to the wire, I would suggest."

For Hughes, who has enjoyed an encouraging first season with the Potters, the target is to secure the club's first top-half finish in the Premier League.

He said: "It would be fantastic if we were able to achieve that. It won't be be easy because there are a lot of clubs around us that will have something to say about that.

"We have put ourselves in a position to be able to do it and that is all we wanted with six games to go."

PA

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