Torres enhances Chelsea headache for Premier League opener

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Andre Villas-Boas is facing an unwanted selection dilemma for his first Premier League game as Chelsea manager as he looks to get his season off to the perfect start with a victory at Stoke.

Chelsea have won their opening game in all of the last nine Premier League seasons and this is a record that Villas-Boas will be keen to uphold.

However, Chelsea will definitely be without Michael Essien and Daniel Sturridge, Fernando Torres and Branislav Ivanovic are extremely doubtful and there are question marks over the fitness of a handful of other players.

Essien is expected to be out for six months with a knee injury, while Sturridge is banned for the trip to Stoke after getting sent off for Bolton on the final day of last season.

The latest round of international fixtures have also taken their toll on Chelsea, with Torres managing just 15 minutes of Spain’s defeat to Italy before being taken to hospital with a suspected concussion.

Meanwhile, Ivanovic has not properly trained since pulling a muscle in pre-season, while fellow defenders David Luiz and Alex have also both missed large periods of Chelsea’s pre-season programme.

The one bit of relatively good news is that Frank Lampard should be fit to start at the Britannia Stadium, despite pulling out of England’s friendly with Holland with a throat infection.

Chelsea’s odds are 8/13 to beat Stoke and they can still boast a strong starting line-up despite these injuries, with the likes of Didier Drogba, Nicolas Anelka, Florent Malouda and Ashley Cole all available.

But Stoke may fancy their chances of taking advantage of a weakened Chelsea, particularly on their own patch, and it is 9/2 that Tony Pulis’ team claim the three points.

Alternatively, the draw can be backed at 11/4 in the Premier League betting.

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Craig Kemp

Craig has written for Ladbrokes since the 2010 World Cup, having previously gained a Media & Sports Journalism degree and contributed to publications including the Racing Post. His main areas of interest are horse racing and UFC, but he is also an avid X Factor gambler and likes nothing more than indulging in a spot of Hip Hop Karaoke.