Stamford Bridge, London
November 14, 2010, 9:30 PM IST
Chelsea host Sunderland this Saturday in the Barclays Premier League. A win against the Black Cats will help them build a considerable lead over their nearest rivals.
A victory over neighbours Fulham in the midweek saw Chelsea go four points clear at the summit of the league table. Last season Chelsea won this fixture by a margin of 7-2 with Anelka and Lampard scoring two goals apiece. Chelsea also holds an overwhelming record against Sunderland at Stamford Bridge. They have won their last six meetings against the Wearsiders at the Bridge. They have only conceded twice during that period, scoring 23 goals in return. The sudden departure of assistant Ray Wilkins, though, may convey trouble behind the scenes at Chelsea. Wilkins was sacked by the club at half-time during a reserve game on Thursday, and we are yet to hear an official explanation.
Sunderland had managed to salvage a point against Tottenham Hotspur in their last game, thanks to Asamoah Gyan’s late strike. The Black Cats have not won a single away game in this term. Their last away win was at Hull City back in April. Their record at the capital is even worse. Their last victory in London was in 2008, at White Hart Lane. In the last 10 visits to the capital, Sunderland have failed to score in six, losing seven, scoring three goals and conceding 21. Manager Steve Bruce has an even more miserable record while visiting Londoners. Bruce has taken Birmingham, Wigan and Sunderland to London on 23 occasions, losing 17 and drawing six. With Darren Bent set to miss this tie, Steve Bruce will have to rely on the abilities of Gyan to pass insurmountable task.
Team News And Tactical Brief
Chelsea will miss the services of Essien, who was sent off in the game against Fulham in the midweek. With Ancelotti deciding against an appeal, Essien is set to miss out the next three domestic games in the process. Ancelotti’s plans to compensate Essien’s void in the midfield by including Lampard in the side was dashed yesterday when the veteran midfielder was ruled out for a couple of weeks more due to a strain in his adductor muscle. Even Alex has been ruled out following a knee injury.
Dear Frank, Chelsea needs you too!
The only good news is that Anelka, who missed Chelsea’s last game due to a back problem, will be back. Drogba will be involved despite the draining effects of malaria and 90 minutes of football on Wednesday. Though Ancelotti is not sure whether he would like to field Drogba under such a tender situation.
Chelsea will continue to play a 4-3-3 formation. Bosingwa is expected to start with Cole being the other full back and Ivanovic partnering Terry in heart of defence. Zhirkov and Ramires will hold the key for the ball distribution and Mikel will anchor the midfield. If Drogba gets the nod, then he’ll be flanked by Malouda and Anelka on either side up front. Else, Anelka will get centre role, supported by Malouda and Sturridge.
Probable Starting Line-up: Cech, Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Terry, Cole, Mikel, Zhirkov, Ramires, Malouda, Drogba, Anelka.
Steve Bruce has suffered some serious injury blows of late. Bent has already been ruled out for the next two weeks following a hamstring injury. Defender John Mensah has a shoulder problem and won’t play while Anton Ferdinand is also out for three weeks. Fraizer Campbell (knee), Matt Kilgallon (back), David Meyler (knee) and Trevor Carson (shoulder) remain sidelined.
Having taken most people by surprise in making six changes against Tottenham, manager Steve Bruce is set to rotate his playing personnel once again. He is expected to adopt a defensive strategy of 4-5-1 following an injury to Bent. Cattermole is expected to get into loggerheads with Mikel in the battle for midfield supremacy. Malbranque and ex-Chelsea player Zenden will be handed the duty to support lone striker Gyan with ball distribution.
Probable Starting Line-up: Gordon, Bramble, Bardsley, Onuoha, Richardson, Zenden, Elmohamady, Cattermole, Henderson, Malbranque, Gyan.
1. If Chelsea win this game, they’ll set a record of winning 12 consecutive games against one single opponent.
2. If Cech manages to keep another clean sheet in this match, then he’ll create a record for highest number of successive shutouts at home for the Blues. Wednesday’s 1-0 win over Fulham at Stamford Bridge saw Cech equal the Blues’ record for successive home clean-sheets in the league, a record that stands at 9 games and was set in 1927.
TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR
Gyan will hope to keep the Chelsea back-line busy.
Asamoah Gyan (Sunderland): Following his record money transfer from Rennes to Sunderland, Gyan had scored in his debut game, coming off the bench. He scored in his first start for the club in the Carling Cup. Gyan then scored twice on his first Premier League start for the club in a 2-0 win against Stoke City. In Sunderland’s last game, Gyan equalized for Sunderland against the mighty Spurs. With the kind of form he is in, Terry and co. will have to work their socks off to keep a check on him.
Chelsea 3-1 Sunderland
Chelsea attack force must be pumped up to shut critics up following an anonymous midweek showing. The champions would want to take control of the match right from the word go. Sunderland will have to show real character to salvage their pride.
TheHardTackle’s BLAST FROM THE PAST