Stadium of Light, Sunderland
December 17, 2013; 19:45 GMT
Sunderland host Chelsea FC at the Stadium of light in the Quarter Final fixture of the Capital One Cup. Both these sides have already faced each other in the league fixture two weeks ago and the match ended in a 3-4 win for the Blues as Eden Hazard produced a brilliant performance on the night. It was Chelsea’s ninth victory in a row at the Stadium of lights.
The last League Cup fixture between these two sides was back in 1985 and it ended in a 5-2 aggregate win for the Black Cats as they won both the legs of the tie. But things have changed over the years and while Chelsea are considered to be among the favourites to win the Premier League, Sunderland are struggling at the bottom of the table. Cup matches can produce shock results though, and that is the romance of this beautiful game.
Team News and tactics
Sunderland are currently 20th in the points table – five points behind West Ham, who currently occupy the last spot outside the relegation zone. Gus Poyet’s arrival did initially lift the spirit at the Stadium of lights with three consecutive home wins in all competitions, but they have now failed to win their last five matches. The fixture hasn’t been kind to them as well in this period as they have faced Chelsea, Tottenham at home and a tough away trip to Stoke City. Sunderland are coming into this fixture on the back of a goalless draw against West Ham. They needed a win in that fixture in order to claw back the difference between them and the Hammers, but despite having numerous attempts on goal they failed to find the back of the net.
Sunderland managed a 2-1 win over Southampton in the last round of the Capital One Cup as Bardsley and Larsson got on the score-sheet. But their progression in this tournament could perhaps be termed as an unwanted distraction for Gus Poyet as surviving relegation in the Premier League remains his prime objective this season.
Gus Poyet is still without Kieran Westwood and Carlos Cuellar due to injuries. Cuelllar is expected to return into first team action before Christmas, but there is no return date available for the goalkeeper. Jack Colback will also miss this fixture due to illness, whereas Phillip Bardsley will be rested after picking up a knock in the match against West Ham.
Poyet is expected to make three changes to the side he fielded against West Ham at the weekend. Andrea Dossena will replace Bardsley at the left back spot, while Adam Johnsen will start on the left of the attack in place of Borini. Steven Fletcher, who came on as a substitute in the second half of the game at the weekend, will start this game upfront. Poyet has also talked about a change in role for midfielder Ki Sung-Yueng. He is willing to use the South Korean in a more advanced role with Cattermole protecting the back four. It will be interesting to see if there is a change in formation to a more attacking 4-1-4-1 in this game for Sunderland.
Expected starting line-up (4-2-3-1): Mannone (GK); Celustka, Brown, O’Shea, Dossena; Cattermole, Ki; Johnson, Larsson, Giaccherini; Fletcher
Chelsea have reduced Arsenal’s lead at the top to just two points and they currently level on points with Liverpool in third place of the points table. It has been a stop start season for the London club, who haven’t looked as secure at the back as a Jose Mourinho side should. They have dropped points against Newcastle United, West Brom, Stoke City and were somewhat lucky to have won their last league fixture against Crystal Palace. Chelsea’s back four have looked shaky whenever the opponents have attacked them as this is something that has frustrated Mourinho. Moreover, their away form has been poor in the league this season and they have won just three of their eight fixtures on the road in the Premier League so far.
Chelsea progressed to the quarter-final of this tournament with a 0-2 win over Arsenal in their last League Cup fixture as Cesar Azpilicueta and Juan Mata scored for the away side. They are now among the favourites to lift this trophy along with Manchester City and could provide an opportunity of early silverware for Mourinho on his return.
Mourinho is still without Marco van Ginkel and Ryan Bertrand for this fixture due to injuries. Branislav Ivanovic will also miss this game with a suspension and there are doubts about the fitness of Gary Cahill as well. Mourinho has stated that he would like to start with Cahill in this game if the manages to recover in time, as Terry needs a rest, but it seems unlikely that Cahill will feature in this game at this point.
Mourinho will look to rotate his squad in this busy part of the calendar and he has insisted that every member of the squad will contribute. He is expected to make seven changes to the starting eleven he fielded against Crystal Palace at the weekend. Mark Schwarzer will replace Petr Cech in goal, while Ashley Cole will come into the side in place of suspended Ivanovic. Which means Azpilicueta will move back to the right back spot for this match. Mikel and Lampard will for the pivot ahead of the defence as Ramires and Essien drop to the bench. Demba Ba will make a rare start upfront, with Willian, Oscar and Schurrle forming the attacking behind him.
Expected starting line-up (4-2-3-1): Schwarzer (GK); Azpilicueta, Luiz, Terry, Cole; Lampard, Mikel; Willian, Oscar, Schurrle; Ba
Players to watch out for: Adam Johnson (Sunderland); Oscar (Chelsea)
Prediction: Sunderland 1-2 Chelsea