Here it is, Paolo Di Canio’s first match in charge of Sunderland Football Club and they are away to the reigning European Champions, the fight to steer Sunderland away from relegation has begun for Di Canio.
The Italian has been caught up in a media storm over his ‘fascist’ comments a few years ago and the media seem to be hounding him before he has even begun but will Sunderland be able to upset the apple cart at Stamford Bridge on Sunday afternoon?
With the fight for a place in the ‘Top 4’ as tight and congested as the relegation scrap Chelsea know just how vital it is to win this match and take all three points on offer.
Chelsea sit 4th in the Barclays Premier League, just two points behind Tottenham with a game in hand and just two points in front of 5th place Arsenal. Only six points separates 3rd and 6th place and with less than ten games to go of the season it is sure to be a tight contest to gain the all important qualification into the Champions League next season.
The last time these two teams met was in December last year, in a game that saw Chelsea beat Sunderland comfortably 1-3. Fernando Torres scored twice that day and at the time it was Chelsea’s first win in eight games, whereas Sunderland slipped into the relegation zone after this defeat. Chelsea enjoyed 54.1% of possession and created seven chances in open play to Sunderland’s six.
Ones to watch
Eden Hazard is certainly one to watch for Chelsea on Sunday. After being rested and only appearing as a substitute on Thursday in the Europa League, Hazard will be fresh and presumably will start the game. Hazard has started 25 times for the Blues, coming off the bench on three occasions and scoring eight goals. The Belgian has made 1253 passes, 85% of which have been accurately passed and created 52 chances for his team including eight assists.
Sunderland’s Adam Johnson has four goals and five assists to his name in his 28 starts in the league this season, creating a total of 45 chances for his team, 27 of them from open play. Johnson has 714 passes in the attacking half of the pitch and with Steven Fletcher out injured the Sunderland fans will be looking for Johnson to step up and score some goals for the team.
Chelsea: Cole (hamstring), Cahill (knee), Romeu (knee).
Sunderland: Fletcher (ankle), Cattermole (knee), Brown (knee). Vaughan (groin) and Cuellar (ankle) are both doubts for Di Canio’s team.
- Fernando Torres has scored six times against Sunderland in the Premier League.
- Chelsea have won 15 of their last 16 Premier League matches against Sunderland.
- Without Steven Fletcher’s goals this season Sunderland would be bottom of the Premier League.
Recent Premier League form
Chelsea are 11th in the Barclays Premier form table at the moment, picking up nine points from a possible 18, suffering a big loss last weekend to Southampton 2-1. Chelsea have scored ten goals and conceded eight in their last six league games, with Rafa Benitez rotating his team every game as the Blues fixture list is so congested with not only the Premier League but also the FA Cup and the Europa League.
Sunderland sit 19th in the Barclays Premier League form table having picked up just two points from a possible 18, relegation form from the Mackems, which saw Martin O’Neill sacked from the club. Sunderland have conceded ten goals and scored five in their last six games, four of the games took place at The Stadium of Light.
Sunderland will be hoping Chelsea’s fixture congestion will cause problems for the Blues and Rafa’s squad rotation policy will come unstuck. However Chelsea will be looking for a third consecutive win in all competitions and will have the home advantage.
Let’s wait and see if Paolo Di Canio will have the same affect that the Sunderland board were hoping for when they appointed him earlier this week and pick up a precious three points at Stamford Bridge.