Stoke City-Chelsea Preview

The Associated Press

In the span of five days, Chelsea have gone from dreaming the impossible dream to witnessing nightmares beyond their imagination.

Facing a must-win match to keep their title hopes afloat, Chelsea will try to regroup and end a challenging week on a positive note on Saturday when they host Stoke City at Stamford Bridge.

Manager Jose Mourinho's team entered play last week atop the Premiership, but an own goal by defender John Terry resigned the Blues (21-6-5) to a 1-0 defeat at Crystal Palace last Saturday and dropped them two points behind Liverpool in the table.

Things then went from bad to worse on Wednesday in France, where their Champions League hopes took a devastating hit following a 3-1 defeat at Paris-St. Germain in their first-leg quarter-final tie. Chelsea pulled level with a critical away goal in the 27th minute thanks to a penalty kick by Eden Hazard, but another own goal - this time a deflection by David Luiz off a free kick in the second half - gave PSG the lead again before some slipshod defending in injury time allowed Javier Pastore to score a third goal, one that has left Chelsea in dire straits for the return leg at home next Tuesday.

"We had the chance to go 2-1 up at the end of the first half. Then we scored an own goal and the third goal was a joke," Mourinho fumed. "It was not a goal, it was a joke. We enjoyed the third goal with Pastore because it was Pastore and us."It's difficult for us to score goals, especially when the games are tight. When you make defensive mistakes you are in trouble, that's simple. We made individual mistakes in areas where for the whole season the guys have performed and they have the right to do that."

Mourinho's inability to settle on a striker - Fernando Torres failed to score versus Crystal Palace and Andre Schurrle was ineffective in the role against PSG before being replaced by Torres - continues to put Chelsea's trophy hopes in doubt. Torres has one goal in nine lifetime games against Stoke City, but Schurrle had a brace in the reverse fixture - a shocking 3-2 loss at Brittania on Dec. 7.

Stoke City (10-10-12) are comfortably mid-table in 10th place with 40 points and all but certain to avoid the drop. The Potters have won three straight on the bounce and are unbeaten in five (4-1-0) to put themselves out of danger and are coming off last Saturday's 1-0 win over Hull City as Peter Odemwingie's goal in the 62nd minute provided the points.

"Finishing in the top 10 is a real possibility so it's up to us to carry on believing in our ability and hopefully pick up more points to guarantee that happens," Potters captain Ryan Shawcross told his team's official website.

Stoke, though, will be hard-pressed to complete the double at Stamford Bridge, where Mourinho is 60-16-0 in league play. Additionally, the Potters have gone 570 minutes without a goal there, spanning four Premier League defeats and two FA Cup ousters, the most recent one a 1-0 setback Jan. 26.

Chelsea have not conceded at home to Stoke since Rory Delap scored in the 60th minute of the Blues' 2-1 win Jan. 17, 2009.