When looking at the current Premier League table in full, there is something almost upside down about how the results of Stoke have panned out.
Through 16 matches, Mark Hughes’ men have amassed 19 points to sit 12th in the standings and one victory away from moving into the top half. At the start of the campaign, this is just what many would have expected.
However, how they have come to be in this position hasn’t been so predictable.
Stoke have played everyone bar West Brom from their fellow bottom-half opposition and have triumphed in exactly zero of these eight fixtures.
The Britannia is no longer the force of old either, with Premier League rookies Leicester and Burnley among those to have exited with three points.
In complete contrast, the Potters have fared ridiculously well against opposition in the upper echelons of the table.
Having lost at home against anyone below them in the standings, Stoke have beaten Arsenal, Newcastle and Swansea at the Britannia, alongside drawing with West Ham.
Some 16 points have been secured against the top half, which is a total that only Manchester City can better.
Unsurprisingly, against the bottom 10, the Potters prop up the table with their paltry three points.
This is of particular interest with the 2011 FA Cup runners up’s next Premier League encounter coming at home to table-topping Chelsea.
Jose Mourinho’s charges have also failed to win on their last two top-flight road trips, which are also the longest in terms of distance to Sunderland and Newcastle.
Stoke isn’t quite as far on the motorways, but the Britannia hasn’t been the happiest hunting ground for Chelsea in recent years either, as they have only taken maximum points in one of their last four visits.
Furthermore, Mourinho will remember a 3-2 December defeat last season, when Oussama Assaidi stole an injury-time winner.
All of this suggests that Stoke are not the opposition that Chelsea would prefer to face next and 5/4 on the hosts in the double chance market has plenty in its favour.
However, there have been some changes going on at Stoke recently that give the impression that they will fall short against Chelsea.
If we break Stoke’s fixtures into two mini seasons up until now we can make an interesting case. The first focuses on their first 10 games, while the second section represents their last six.
Across their first 10 games, Stoke only conceded a total of 23 shots on target and fired in more shots than the opposition on six occasions.
Interestingly, against Aston Villa, Leicester, Sunderland and West Ham, Hughes watched the opposition score with every shot they had on target.
Things have been far different in recent weeks, where Stoke seem to be far happier allowing the opposition to shoot at Asmir Begovic, despite his difficulty in saving shots on target in the earlier games of the campaign.
The same 23 shots on target have been given up across their last six fixtures and each opposing team have managed at least three.
Putting a finger on why this is exactly is not the most straightforward of tasks, as there have been a few changes in personnel since the start of the campaign.
Glenn Whelan has never really appeared to be overly admired by Hughes, but Stoke will do well to find another £500k bargain of his type.
He hasn’t started for Stoke since the beginning of October and the number of shots that the opposition are having since has certainly increased. There are numerous supporters who would feel that he is one of the most underrated players in the Potters squad.
However, Geoff Cameron has been one of the better players in recent weeks in Whelan’s position next to Steven N’Zonzi.
Bojan has also become a more regular starter and although his extra workrate was recently highlighted on Match of the Day, it could be argued that picking him in a free role weakens the defensive spine of the team.
This is especially the case with Mame Biram Diouf and Jon Walters effectively starting in the wide areas, who are both forwards in reality.
Despite this more attacking line-up, the other thing of note across the last six games is that Stoke are no longer having more shots than the majority of the opposition.
In fact, they have only managed to have more shots than Burnley in this period.
So, fewer shots being had and more shots being conceded, this has to be deemed a recipe for disaster for Stoke as they attempt to climb the table further and especially bad news against a Chelsea side well disciplined in doing enough to win games.
Mourinho’s team won’t be phased if Stoke look to play long towards Peter Crouch and won’t make the same mistake as Manchester City earlier in the campaign when over-committing men forward and getting caught on the counter attack.
The Chelsea straight victory at 4/6 has little appeal, but given how open Stoke have become in recent weeks, the Blues overcoming a one-goal handicap at 15/8 may be the best bet to be on.