Stoke v Chelsea, Saturday 15:00
– Stoke haven’t had a great start to 2013, with a 3-0 loss at the hands of Man City in the league and a 0-0 draw in the FA Cup against Crystal Palace. One highlight, however, will be the signing of a new contract by Ryan Shawcross.
– Shawcross has attempted 53 tackles this season, winning an impressive 64.2% of them, and made 110 interceptions, making him the 9th most effective defender in the league when you combine tackles won, interceptions, clearances and blocks. That includes 23 blocks, the second highest in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.
– Stoke have looked impressive in defence this season and have conceded just 20 goals, a return bettered only by Chelsea and Man City. They have conceded just 7 goals at home, the best in the league. Part of that must go down to goalkeeper Asmir Begovic who has been in impressive form this season. Begovic has made 112 saves this season, the third highest number in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index, and is the third ranked goalkeeper overall after England number 1 Joe Hart and Chelsea’s Petr Cech.
– Jonathan Walters has also been quietly impressing this season, and is the second highest ranked striker in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index outside of the top 6 teams having contributed 5 goals and 3 assists this season from 30 shits at goal. Walters may need to sharpen up though, having hit just 13 of those 30 shots on target.
– Chelsea have had a difficult start to 2013, with a 1-0 defeat to West London neighbours QPR and a 2-0 league cup defeat to Swansea falling either side of a 5-1 thrashing of Southampton in the FA Cup.
– One highlight for Chelsea fans will be the seamless transition that new signing Demba Ba has made to the team. Ba scored twice on his debut in the FA Cup and looked dangerous when brought on against Swansea, so Stoke will need to watch out for the former Newcastle hitman. Ba is joint second in the race for the Premier League golden boot having scored 13 goals at a rate of one every 137 minutes, and coming from 81 shots at goal with 41 of those on target. In comparison, Luis Suarez and Michu, who are both also on 13 goals, have taken 140 and 141 minutes respectively to score their goals, and taken 104 and 54 shots to score them.
– Ba will enjoy playing in front of a supremely talented Chelsea midfield. Juan Mata has been one of the stars of the season, and has contributed a goal or assist every 95 minutes this season, one of the best ratings in the league. Mata has completed 587 passes in the opposition half this season, the 6th highest in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index and two places above team mate Eden Hazard who is in 8th with 531 passes completed.
– His midfield team mate Frank Lampard has been at the centre of most conversations around Chelsea this month with contract negotiations ongoing. Lampard has six goals in the Premier League this season, averaging one every 96 minutes 40 seconds, a rate only beaten by United’s Chicarito Hernandez which demonstrates his ongoing value as a goal scorer in the Premier League.