The month ahead is the busiest of the season and it will prove to be crucial for both of these sides. Sunderland need to pick up as many points as possible to move out of the relegation zone, whereas Chelsea will be hoping to make inroads into Arsenal’s lead. Neither can afford a bad month. Gus Poyet will be facing Chelsea as a manager for the first time in a competitive fixture, and as a former Blues player, he will be keen to get one over his old club. It won’t be as simple as the league table suggests for Chelsea. Poyet has guided his Sunderland side successive victories in his first two home games in charge against Newcastle and Manchester City.
Sunderland have picked up since the appointment of Poyet. They have managed to get 7 points from their last 5 games, which is okay, but the Uruguayan will be hoping for even further improvement as the side get used to his style of play. At the weekend, they drew 0-0 at Aston Villa. The North East side had the better of the play and should have won, but Emanuele Giaccherini missed a chance when it looked easier to score. If they continue playing like they did at Villa Park, they could very well stay up, but it was always going to be a difficult task for Poyet, especially as he lacked Premier League experience as a manager. They are still five points from Cardiff in 17th.
The visitors fared better at the weekend with a 3-1 triumph over high flying Southampton. They fell behind after only 13 seconds due to a Michael Essien mistake, but second half goals from Gary Cahill, John Terry and Demba Ba gave Chelsea the three points. The second half performance was excellent and Jose Mourinho will be expecting his side to take it into Wednesday’s match. Chelsea have recorded back to back wins in the Premier League after a dip in form with the loss at Newcastle and the lucky draw against West Brom. They are second in the league, four points adrift of Arsenal, they can’t afford to allow that lead to grow.
In last season’s fixture, Chelsea won 3-1 with Fernando Torres scoring twice and Juan Mata getting the other one. Adam Johnson scored for the home side. The corresponding fixture also resulted in a Chelsea win. It was Paulo di Canio’s first game in charge and it ended in a 2-1 win for the home side at Stamford Bridge. Cesar Azpilicueta and Matt Kilgallon exchanged own goals before Branislav Ivanovic scored the winner.
Sunderland have only scored 3 goals in Poyet’s first six games in charge. All of which came at the Stadium of Light. They will need to improve in front of goal if they are to avoid relegation.
Chelsea have won 8 points from losing positions this season, which is more than any other side in the league. This is an important feature of a title winning side.
Ki Sung-Yueng will be crucial for Sunderland on Wednesday. They will need to look after the ball and be effective with it when they get the chance as Chelsea are likely to dominate possession. Ki is very good at retaining possession as showed by his pass completion rate of 88.15% which is far better than the team’s average pass completion of 73.06%. The on loan Swansea midfielder has grasped his chance since Poyet has come in and secured a place in the team. He fits into the manager’s philosophy more so than any of the other central midfielders. The majority of his passes go right (36%) and left (26%), but that is to be expected as he isn’t the type of player to create lots of chances. He has only created 5 chances so far this season.
It’s been a frustrating start to the season for Juan Mata as Mourinho doesn’t seem very keen on him, but his performance against Southampton may have finally convinced his manager that the Spaniard should be playing every week. Mata created 5 chances against Southampton including an assist for John Terry. So far this season, he has created 20 chances, two of which have been assists. The Spanish International has created a chance every 24 minutes. This is only bettered by three other players, Sylvain Marveaux, David Silva and Christian Eriksen. This highlights how important Mata is to Chelsea as he is still performing at an incredibly high level, despite being used less often than he would have expected. Over Christmas, he will only get better if he gets a run in the team. Surely Mourinho can’t drop him again, can he?
Kieron Westwood could be back from injury, but it remains to be seen if he will return straight to the starting line up as Vito Mannone has been in good form. Carlos Cuellar will still be missing with a thigh injury. Jack Colback and Lee Cattermole will be pushing for a return to the team as its unlikely that Poyet will play two strikers against Chelsea as he did against Aston Villa. Their lack of goals means that Jozy Altidore may be considered for a starting place. Adam Johnson was used as a substitute on Saturday, but he too will be hoping he can get back into the starting line up.
Oscar went off on Sunday with an ankle injury so he is a doubt for the trip to Sunderland. Samuel Eto’o (hamstring) and David Luiz (knee) are expected to still be missing on Wednesday. Marco van Ginkel remains on the long term injury list. Ba will be pushing for a starting place after an impressive performance at the weekend. The former Newcastle striker managed to get a goal and caused problems for the Southampton defence throughout. Ashley Cole could return after Azpilicueta was preferred on Sunday. Frank Lampard played a huge part in Chelsea’s comeback after coming on, he could start on Wednesday.
Sunderland have been impressive at home since Poyet took over, but they don’t have a substantial goal threat which is a concern going forward. Mourinho will be wary of Sunderland after seeing them beat Manchester City and the Chelsea manager will also remember his side’s last visit to the North East losing to Newcastle. He will not want a repeat of that. I think Chelsea will come out on top but it will be close.
1-0 Chelsea win