Rafael Benitez travels to the Stadium Of light on Saturday still looking for his first league win as Chelsea boss. Two 0-0 draws at home to Manchester City and Fulham were followed up with a second half capitulation at Upton Park leaving them without a win in seven league games. With them failing to progress through their Champions League group, Benitez needs wins before Abramovich again wields his infamous managerial axe.
Martin O’Neill took over Sunderland in December 2011 with them lying precariously in 17th place. A year in to the job and the situation remains the same. With one win in their last nine and only one home win all season O’Neill understandably leads the managerial sack race with the bookmakers. Improvements were made at Norwich and this will have to continue if they are to get anything from Benitez’s boys.
Both teams in this fixture last year had different managers at the helm. A Steve Bruce Sunderland, full of summer signings, lost 2-1 to Andre Villas-Boas Chelsea side. John Terry and Daniel Sturridge gave them their third win a row while Ji Dong-Won added a consolation in injury time.
Benitez will be delighted to have back Chelsea veterans John Terry and Frank Lampard after injuries. Daniel Sturridge also returns from injury to expand Benitez’s options from the bench. Yet the starting eleven should be similar to their team from midweek with Fernando Torres aiming to kick on from his brace against Nordsjaelland.
Sunderland will have to look elsewhere for goals as their shining light Steven Fletcher misses out through injury. Either Louis Saha or Connor Wickham will come in to lead the line for a side with only 13 goals this season. Former Manchester United defenders Wes Brown and John O’Shea miss out along with Captain Lee Cattermole making Sunderland’s task that so much harder.
Ones to watch
Fernando Torres again will be the one to watch as he leads the line. Since his record move from Liverpool in January 2011 he has failed to replicate the sensational form he showed in front of the Anfield faithful. Yet this season he is showing glimmers of his former self as his shot accuracy average is 63% this season. However his clear cut chance conversion is poor standing at 22%. His two goals in midweek will have given the Spanish striker a huge lift and a sense of belief that he’s always been lacking during his time at Stamford Bridge.
With Steven Fletcher missing, Stephane Sessegnon will be Sunderland’s main threat of causing an upset at the Stadium of Light. The Benin international was a revelation last season scoring seven goals and creating a total 72 chances for his team mates. However this season has been disappointing for the attacking midfielder. He has only had 22 chances in 13 games which show that O’Neill’s side are failing to create enough chances. If provided with the ammunition, Sessegnon can help his side grab their second home win of the season.
Both sides will be desperate for points to help resurrect their season. Both John Terry and Frank Lampard will bring stability to a side lacking in form. Steven Fletcher will be a massive loss to a side lacking in confidence and most importantly, goals. I expect Chelsea to edge this tight game with Fernando Torres silencing his critics.
Prediction: Sunderland 0-2 Chelsea