Gary Cahill says Chelsea are fully confident of winning away at Stoke City, given the way they have been playing in recent weeks.
The Blues won their past four matches and head into the game against Mark Hughes’s side with a 10-point advantage at the top of the Premier League table and having booked an FA Cup semi-final date against Tottenham at Wembley.
In the team’s most recent away game, at West Ham, Cahill and the rest of the Chelsea defence were tested by the considerable aerial threat of Andy Carroll and coped very well. In the previous win they were up against Swansea’s Fernando Llorente and may today face another striker strong in the air in Peter Crouch.
Matches away at Stoke are notoriously difficult for all and, having played with and against the Potters striker who scored at Stamford Bridge in December, Cahill spoke about dealing with the challenge.
‘We played Stoke at home and beat them when Peter Crouch played, and he always proves difficult to play against,’ says Cahill. ‘Naturally his size proves difficult in and around the box, but also I’ve trained with him for England many times and as everyone knows through his career he’s a great finisher and he’s got great feet for a big man.
‘Mark Hughes has done a great job there and I think they do go direct when they need to, but they’ve also got good technicians where he wants to play as well. It’s a tough place to go, everyone in the league knows Stoke is a very difficult place to go and get three points.
‘But the confidence and momentum we have going into this game means we should be concentrating on us and the work we have been doing to get us to this point. We need keep doing the same things.’
Goals conceded from aerial balls have been highlighted of late yet no team in the Premier League has conceded fewer goals than Chelsea and no team is ever able to keep a clean sheet in every game. It is a point Cahill considers.
‘Everyone’s quick to say this might be their weakness or that might be their weakness,’ says the defender. ‘Height is dangerous in the box, of course it is, pace is dangerous, everything’s dangerous. You’ve just got to go out and do the best you can and we’ve managed to do that this season.
‘Whether the opposition go with a big man up front or they don’t, the way we approach the game and the way we want to play is what we should be concentrating on. Obviously we’ve spoken about the threats they’ve got, but we’re playing well, we’re in a good moment, so we’ll continue and focus on what we’re doing.’
The way Chelsea won when we met Stoke at the Bridge on New Year’s Eve was a big boost to confidence. We came out on top 4-2 with Willian restoring our lead twice in the second half after Stoke had equalised.
Cahill, who scored the opening goal that afternoon, felt we showed fantastic character in the way we responded and believes it demonstrated how far we have come under Conte.
‘We’ve always had the quality to do that. Certainly this season we’ve built the belief and the confidence that we can. When we take knocks we’re confident that we can go again. If there’s any criticism of us last season, maybe that’s a game we wouldn’t have won last season.
‘In our make-up this year we’ve managed to, okay things don’t always go to plan, that was a game where things didn’t go to plan for us 100 per cent. But then it’s the reaction after that and to go in the lead and then have Stoke equalise, then get the lead again and they equalise once more, there could be a few heads go down but it’s not the case this season.
‘We kept going and while there’s minutes on the clock we believe within ourselves that we are going to get a result and that’s what happened.
‘It was a big game, I remember the celebrations after in the dressing room, and you could sense that was a big achievement for us.’