Stoke City defender Kurt Zouma moved to the Staffordshire outfit back in July on a season-long loan deal from English Premier League champions Chelsea.

The Frenchman was a regular for The Blues during the 2015/2016 season, when their disappointing season led to a 10th placed finish.

In February 2016, the then 21-year-old ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee which led to an 11-month lay-off from first team football.

When he returned the following January, the club were under new management with new ideas. Zouma struggled to return to the first team and made only 13 appearances last season under Antonio Conte. His lack of game time led to a loan away from the club; despite John Terry’s departure from Stamford Bridge, young Danish defender Andreas Christensen was the man chosen to fill the void left by the former England captain.

The Blues’ signing of Antonio Rudiger also meant that there was just ‘no room at the inn’ for Zouma so in order to prove himself and get his career back on track, Zouma moved to Stoke City for the season to play under former Chelsea man Mark Hughes.

Stoke City’s disappointing start to the season has meant that their on-loan French defender has struggled to keep many clean sheets. In fact, in Zouma’s 20 appearances in all competitions this season, he has only kept two clean sheets.

Christensen, the man deemed more worthy of a place in a first team place by Antonio Conte, has proved exactly why the Italian manager showed faith in him.  The 21-year-old has featured 21 times for The Blues this season, keeping nine clean sheets in that time.

With Zouma ineligible for Saturday’s match, Christensen will have the opportunity to prove his worth; that is if he has fully recovered from the illness that forced him to miss their 2-0 victory over Brighton & Hove Albion on Boxing Day.

By Jonty Colman