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SUNDERLAND

Stamford Bridge, London

April 19, 2014; 17:30 BST

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Chelsea FC host relegation contenders Sunderland at Stamford Bridge on Saturday as they look to close down their gap with Liverpool at the top. Sunderland managed to win the last encounter between these two sides as they knocked out the Blues from the League Cup back in December. But Chelsea do have a good record against them on their home turf and Sunderland have managed only two wins in this stadium – the last of which came in the 2010 when Nedum Onuoha, Asamoah Gyan and Danny Welbeck scored in a 0-3 win for the away side.

The London club are coming into this fixture on the back of a 0-1 win over Swansea City and it was only their second win in their last eight matches on the road. But Chelsea do have an impeccable home record under Mourinho and remain the only side who are yet to be beaten at home. They are currently three points behind Liverpool in the title race and with the Merseyside club playing their match on Sunday, Chelsea can close down the gap with a win and put pressure on them.

Sunderland on the other hand are fighting for their survival in what is increasingly looking like a losing battle. They are at the bottom of the league table – six points behind the safety spot (currently occupied by Norwich) with a game in hand. They have encountered awful form in the last two months and are yet to win a Premier League game since their 0-3 win over Newcastle United back in February. Gus Poyet’s men have lost nine of their last 12 matches in all competitions and they now find it hard to protect their Premier League status. The Sunderland manager will hope that his men can get some belief from the draw they managed at the Etihad Stadium in their last game.

Team news and tactics

Chelsea

Jose Mourinho doesn’t have too many injury concerns too deal with at the moment, but he will have to contain with the absence of one of the most important member of his squad – Eden Hazard. The Belgium international has missed Chelsea’s last three matches after picking up a calf injury in the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie against PSG earlier this month. Assistant Coach Steve Holland has confirmed his unavailability for this game, and has also stated that Hazard is doubtful to recover in time for the first leg of their Champions League semi-final fixture against Atletico Madrid next week.

Other than the Belgium winger, Mourinho has a full fit squad to choose from ahead of this fixture. The Chelsea manager could have one eye on the Champions League game and decide to rotate a few of his players against Sunderland. Mourinho is expected to make three changes to the starting eleven he selected against Swansea City last week.

Ashley Cole, whose last start was against Stoke City back in January, could find a place in the starting eleven as Mourinho decides to rest Cesar Azpilicueta ahead of the Champions League game. Frank Lampard will replace Ramires in the midfield and he will partner Nemanja Matic in the pivot, who will be ineligible to play against Atletico.

Mohamed Salah will retain his place in the side after some impressive performances recently, but Andre Schurrle will drop to the bench with Oscar replacing him in attack. This means Willian, who played behind the striker against Swansea, will move out wide to the left. Demba Ba, who continued his recent goal scoring form in the last game, should retain his place in the side as well.

Expected starting line-up (4-2-3-1): Cech (GK); Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Cole; Matic, Lampard; Salah, Oscar, Willian; Ba

Sunderland

Gus Poyet does have a few injury concerns to contain with ahead of this game. Keiren Westwood and striker Steven Fletcher continue their spell at the side-lines, while Carlos Cuellar, who started in the 5-1 defeat against Tottenham Hotspur, is still struggling with his fitness and is unlikely to play any part in this match. Ki Sung-Yueng, who is suffering from tendonitis since the match against Everton, also remains unavailable for selection, while Phil Bardsley continues to serve his suspension.

Gus Poyet is expected to make just one change to side that nearly produced a winning performance against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium. Emanuele Giaccherini, who assisted both the Sunderland goals after coming off the bench in the second half, could replace Fabio Borini on the left of the midfield.

Connor Wickham, who scored a wonderful brace against Man City, will retain his place in the side ahead of Jozy Altidore. Poyet will hope that the 21-year-old can carry his form into this game and provide them the impetus they need in order to make an unlikely escape from relegation. The absence of Philip Bradsley could also prove to be instrumental in this game as Santiago Vergini has looked defensively unstable and will face problem in contain Willian down that wing. He will certainly require some defensive help from Adam Johnson.

Expected starting line-up (4-1-4-1): Mannone (GK); Vergini, O’Shea, Brown, Alonso; Cattermole; Johnson, Colback, Larsson, Giaccherini; Wickham

Key facts

  • Chelsea have won the last six Premier League meetings between these sides, and 17 of the last 18 league encounters.
  • Sunderland have only won two of their 12 Premier League games at Stamford Bridge, conceding 38 goals including a 7-2 defeat in January 2010.
  • Chelsea have the best home record in the league this season (W15, D2) meaning Jose Mourinho has still yet to lose a Premier League game in his two spells at Chelsea (W61, D16).
  • Sunderland are winless in their last nine Premier League games, earning only two points, since beating Newcastle on 1 February.
  • Petr Cech has kept 16 clean sheets in the Premier League this season – three more than any other goalkeeper.

Player to watch-out for

Mohamed Salah (Chelsea)

Chelsea might be without their star man Eden Hazard for this game, but they still have two quality wingers in their side in Willian and Mohamed Salah. The Egyptian international, who arrived in the winter transfer window, has produced some eye-catching performances recently. With Hazard out injured, this is a wonderful opportunity for the 21-year-old to stake a permanent role in the side and impress Jose Mourinho.

Prediction

Chelsea 2-0 Sunderland

One team is fighting for the title, while the other for its survival and these matches always live up to its expectations. Sunderland produced a wonderful performance against City and will give Chelsea a good fight, but Mourinho’s men have enough quality on the pitch to win this game by two goals in the end.

Blast from the past