Chelsea rounded off a highly successful year in style as Antonio Conte’s men thrashed Mark Hughes’ Stoke City by a five-goal margin.
The visitors - who made multiple changes for this Premier League encounter - found themselves behind almost immediately when Antonio Rudiger headed home.
Champions Chelsea rotated ahead of their midweek showdown with Arsenal as Eden Hazard and Cesc Fabregas were rested, but looked as strong as ever when Danny Drinkwater fired home from 25-yards out. Pedro made it three 14 minutes later.
A Willian penalty and an effort from Davide Zappacosta completed the romp in the second half as they leapfrogged Manchester United into second place.
Quick start proves disastrous
Mark Hughes’ weakened team were disappointing from the offset at Stamford Bridge but, even with a full-strength side, the worst defensive outfit in the league were always set to be handed a spanking.
The Potters players never truly looked up for the away trip to West London as the disjointed starting XI failed to click. Teenage defenders Tom Edwards and Josh Tymon might have expected protection from those ahead of them, but help was not forthcoming.
In fact, hope of any sort of relief disappeared as the game went on. Rudiger dealt the first blow of many as the centre-back, up against three static defenders, nodded home a Willian free-kick after three minutes.
The hosts were able to double their lead moments later as Drinkwater scored his first goal for the club by striking a bouncing ball beautifully from 25-yards into the top corner of Jack Butland’s net.
Any hope of a revival was crushed swiftly by an efficient Chelsea team who provided Pedro with the opportunity to jink past Tymon and sweep the ball into the bottom corner from the periphery of the penalty area.
Conte’s men took the pressure off momentarily midway through the first-half which allowed Stoke to put the ball in Courtois’ net. The referee, however, spotted a handball by Mame Biram Diouf before the striker got what looked like a consolation.
Chelsea make it five
Sorry Stoke were left damaged, bruised in the closing stages of this match. Willian had been brought down in the box courtesy of a clumsy challenge by Geoff Cameron before the irresistible Brazilian sent Butland the wrong way from the spot.
The icing on the cake was Zappacosta’s low-shot from 20-yards to put Stoke properly to the sword. Chelsea were brilliant at the weekend but Stoke would have made anyone look unbeatable.
The games come thick and fast in a busy festive period with both of these sides back in action during the week. Stoke host Newcastle United on New Year’s Day in what has now become a must-win game for both Hughes and the club’s Premier League status.
Chelsea have an eye on their Wednesday trip to the Emirates to face London rivals Arsenal. The Blues will fancy their chances on current form - having gone unbeaten in their last six outings in all competitions and after four consecutive clean sheets in the league.