Stadium of lights, Sunderland
December 04, 2013; 19:45 BST
Sunderland host Chelsea FC in the mid-week Premier League clash at the Stadium of lights, in what promises to be an exciting encounter. The last meeting between these two sides ended in a hard fought win for Chelsea as Branislav Ivanovic scored the winner in the second half. Chelsea have won their last four matches against the Black Cats, with Sunderland’s last win coming back in 2010. The away side registered a massive 0-3 at Stamford Bridge that day as Onuoha, Gyan and Welbeck got in the score-sheet.
Sunderland made a disastrous start to their Premier League campaign under Paolo Di Canio. After adding quite a few new signings to the squad this summer, Sunderland lost seven of their opening eight matches. But Di Canio’s eventual removal and the arrival of Gus Poyet seemed to have a positive impact on the squad. Sunderland have now lost only twice in their last six matches in all competitions. The win against local rivals Newcastle United, followed by wins against Southampton in the League Cup and Manchester City in the Premier League, have provided them with hope of limbing out of the relegation zone.
Gus Poyet is a 100% record at home for Sunderland with three consecutive wins and now that run will be severely tested against title contenders Chelsea. Sunderland are coming into this game on the back of a goalless draw with Aston Villa and they are now five points short of a place outside the bottom three.
Chelsea made a relatively slow start under their new manager Jose Mourinho with three wins in their opening six matches. Mourinho took time to identify his first choice eleven and things have improved a lot recently. Chelsea lost only twice in their last 15 matches in all competitions. This run has seen them climb up to second in the points table and they are just four points behind the league leaders Arsenal.
Jose Mourinho’s men bounced back well after their defeat at the hands of Newcastle United and the disappointing draw against West Brom. They are coming into this fixture on the back of convincing 3-1 win over Southampton in match where they produced a brilliant second half performance. Despite conceding an early goal, Chelsea scored three in the second half with Gary Cahill, John Terry and Demba Ba getting on the score-sheet.
They now face a Sunderland side who have looked dangerous at home recently and considering Chelsea’s poor away form in the league this season (two wins in six matches), this could prove to be a tricky encounter for the Blues.
Sunderland – Team News, Lineup And Formation
Gus Poyet has couple of injury concerns ahead of this fixture. Carlos Cuellar is out with a hip injury along with Keiren Westwood. There are some doubts about the fitness of Modibo Diakite, but he is expected to recover in time. But the good news is the possible availability of John O’Shea for this fixture. The former Manchester United defender picked up a groin problem during the match against Aston Villa, but has returned to training ahead of this game. He is expected to undergo a late fitness test, but is expected to feature against Chelsea at the back.
Gus Poyet was pleased with his side’s performance against Aston Villa and O’Shea’s availability means he is unlikely to make any changes to the starting eleven he fielded in that game. Gus Poyet has used the 4-1-4-1 formation with Ki Sung-Yueng protecting the back four in the midfield. The likes of Colback, Cattermole and Johnson provides him with good options from the bench as well. The biggest concern at the moment is the lack of goals upfront. They have failed to score in three of their last five matches and Steven Fletcher has scored just two in eight starts so far. Fletcher will need more support from Borini and Giaccherini in the box. Jozy Altidore is the other option for Gus Poyet, but he failed to score to far as well. Eight goals in 13 league games is a big case for concern.
Sunderland will win or lose this match on the wings, both in attack and in defence. Dossena can be exposed by pace and he will be up against Willian. Borini and Gardner will need to fall back and help out the full back to deal with threat on the wing. Giaccherini can put in a good defensive shift and he will have to keep an eye on Ashley Cole, who would look to make penetrating runs down the left.
Possible Starting Line up [4-1-4-1]: Mannone (GK); Bardsley, O’Shea, Brown, Dossena; Ki; Giaccherini, Larsson, Gardner, Borini; Fletcher
Chelsea – Team News, Lineup And Formation
Jose Mourinho will be without David Luiz and Oscar for this fixture. The Brazilian defender is yet to recover from his knee injury, while Oscar, who was replaced in the first half of the match against Southampton, has picked up an ankle injury. Neither of them are expected to be out for too long though. Marco van Ginkel is the only long-term injury concern at the moment. The good news is that former Barcelona striker Samuel Eto’o is fit and available for selection after returning to training.
Mourinho is expected to make three changes to the side he fielded against Southampton. Willian will replace the injured Oscar in attack, which means Mata will shift to a more central role with the Brazilian starting on the right. Lampard will replace Essien in the pivot, alongside Ramires in the midfield. Essien looked out of sort in the last game and made a horrendous error which gifted the opening goal to Jay Rodriguez.
The Chelsea manager has also stated that Ashley Cole, who lasted appeared in the 2-0 loss at the hands of Newcastle United, will get a game. Mourinho seemed to have preferred Cesar Azpilicueta as the left back in recent games, but the England international is likely to feature in this midweek clash.
Chelsea will look to score an early goal in this game to get a grip on the game. Sunderland can produce good performances at home, like they did against Manchester City. The home side will look to maintain their defensive shape and hit Chelsea on the break. Chelsea will dominate possession, but might have to be patient with the ball. The game will open up once Chelsea score a goal and that would provide Chelsea the perfect opportunity to use their strength on the counter-attacks against a relatively slow defence.
Possible Starting Line-Up [4-2-3-1]: Cech (GK); Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Cole; Lampard, Ramires; Willian, Mata, Hazard; Torres.
- Chelsea have won the last five encounters, and 16 of the previous 17. The only exception to that sequence is the Black Cats’ 3-0 win at Stamford Bridge on 14 November 2010.
- The last time Sunderland got anything out of a home game against Chelsea was on 9 December 2001 when they drew 0-0. Their last home win over the Blues was a 1-0 victory on 14 October 2000.
- Victory would give Sunderland three successive home league wins for the first time since January-February 2012.
- The Black Cats have netted 12 goals in their last 14 home league games.
- They have registered 30 shots on target in top-flight matches this season, fewer than any other side. They managed only one effort on target against Aston Villa on Saturday.
Player To Watch Out For
Juan Mata (Chelsea)
The Spaniard has had limited opportunities to shine this season as Jose Mourinho has preferred Oscar as the play-maker in the side. Apparently the Portuguese tactician was not pleased about the lack of defensive work he does for the side. But Mata has seemingly working harder when the team doesn’t have possession and his quality on the ball remains unquestionable. The 25-year-old produced a wonderful performance against Southampton and was one of the main reason behind Chelsea’s brilliant second half performance. Now with Oscar injured, Mata has the opportunity to take the center-stage and play through the middle. He will be desperate to grab this opportunity against Sunderland.
Sunderland 0-2 Chelsea
Chelsea will look to get an early goal, while Sunderland will look to keep their shape. The Black Cats have been good at home recently and will look to reproduce their performance against Manchester City. But this Chelsea side could prove to be too strong for them and the Blues should win this by a two goal margin. Sunderland’s lack of goal threat upfront will be highlighted once again.