Stoke boss Hughes: Chelsea struggling to manage their dark arts

Stoke boss Hughes: Chelsea struggling to manage their dark arts”

Kurt Zomba is ineligible to play against his parent club while Ryan Shawcross and Geoff Cameron remain on the sidelines.

And Hughes fears he could be without four of his centre-half options.

Hughes is determined to keep his preferred back-three system, meaning Erik Pieters or Glen Johnson might be considered suitable for adapting to a central defensive role.

Also, the situation may lead to involvement for 18-year-old defender Harry Souttar. We will have to see how he is today.

"We're a little bit stretched to say the least".

In Chelsea's title winning campaign, Zouma made just six starts, only three of which came in the Premier League and the Frenchman had fallen behind Nathan Ake in the ranks.

Add to that Pedro's sending off in the Community Shield and it's a worrying stat for Chelsea boss Antonio Conte.

Stoke host Chelsea tomorrow and Hughes thinks they are struggling to master the dark arts this season.

Hughes, who also played for the Blues, said: "I think they've got more sendings off in the opening five or six games as in the whole of previous year".

"So is that an anomaly or something prevalent throughout their squad, a discipline issue?" I think a year ago they were good at taking things up to a line and not crossing it and maybe they have (this season) just got that wrong.

"I think if you look at Costa, he was brilliant at it in terms of really taking it up to the edge, then stepping back, but affecting opposition teams". It's a pleasure for me to see him play regularly.

Hughes admits he was a fan of Costa, who is set to leave Chelsea after months of acrimony to rejoin Atletico Madrid.

Chelsea now occupy third position on the Premier League standings with 10 points from 5 games, while their opponents on Saturday, September 23 are 13th on the log with 5 points.

The Blues manager was pleased with how they responded to being called up to the starting XI for this week's Carabao Cup victory, in which both players scored on rare starts for the club.

Chelsea play at Atletico next Wednesday in Champions League Group C, and all parties will be relieved the matter has been resolved.

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