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How Sunderland Can Surprise Chelsea…

Following the appointment of Martin O’Neill at the start of December, Sunderland have burst into life over the past 6 weeks as they head into this weekend’s fixtures sitting 10th in the Premier League.

Following the appointment of Martin O’Neill at the start of December, Sunderland have burst into life over the past 6 weeks as they head into this weekend’s fixtures sitting 10th in the Premier League.

Sunderland collected the most points over the festive fixtures, picking up 10 points from a maximum 12; the 2 dropped points came in a 1-1 draw with Everton where the opposition received a controversial second half penalty.

The Black Cats have shown a committed attitude under O’Neill; none more so evident than in their 1-0 victory over Manchester City on New Year’s day. Defending tirelessly for the majority of the match, they broke away in stoppage time to score with the final kick of the game to pull off a shock victory.

In that game, Manchester City had 69% possession and won the shots battle, 20 to 6. In true Martin O’Neill fashion, his side came out 1-0 victors. Here’s why I think Sunderland can get a result at Stamford Bridge on Saturday:

Sunderland have won 4 out of their last 5 in all competitions and only Hugo Rodallega has scored against them from open play in the last 383 minutes. Meanwhile, Chelsea have won just 1 of their last 5 Premier League fixtures and were beaten 3-1 by Aston Villa in their last league game at Stamford Bridge. The time before that, they were held 1-1 by Martin Jol’s Fulham.

Chelsea are vulnerable to set pieces. Sebastian Larsson is an excellent set piece taker. The Swede has scored 5 goals and been credited with 4 assists this season. Chelsea are notoriously weak at defending set pieces. David Luiz has won just 50% of his aerial duels this season, whilst Jose Bosingwa’s marking at set pieces leaves something to be desired. He doesn’t even challenge for some headers that he should. His aforementioned Brazilian team mate’s positioning also comes into question.

Should Andre Villas-Boas go with either or both Luiz and Bosingwa, I would expect O’Neill to look to exploit these two from set pieces, and even during open play. Jose Bosingwa’s over-aggressive attacking nature leaves space at the back. Youngster James McClean playing on the left wing has scored in his last two outings and may find room to shoot in this one too.

Stephane Sessegnon has filled in well up front this season. The pacey forward enjoys a shot and I can see him giving both Luiz and John Terry problems with his movement in this game. Both James Vaughan and Craig Gardner playing in centre midfield have scored in recent weeks too.

Defensively, Sunderland curtained out Manchester City and I would expect them to do similar in this game.

Daniel Sturridge is in line to return on the right wing in this game. Adam Johnson played there a few weeks ago and went missing in action. Will the same happen to the Chelsea forward in this game?

Fernando Torres has just two goals to his name this season and will come up against Matthew Kilgallon who’s looked good since being brought back into the first team.

Juan Mata is the playmaker in the side. I believe some of his ability is lost playing out on the left wing compared to being in the middle. Look for him to be double teamed by both John O’Shea and Sebastian Larsson as Sunderland limit the impact the Spaniard can make in this match.

Frank Lampard has 8 goals to his name this season. Whilst he’s looked deadly from 6 yards, I wouldn’t expect him to score from outside the box in this game. Sunderland have been defending in numbers in recent weeks and therefore I don’t see much space for the 123-goal Chelsea midfielder. Even if he shots are known to take a deflection…

Ramires could well be the spark Chelsea need in this game. I would expect Craig Gardner to be the man to pick his runs up from midfield. The Brazilian loves to stride forward with the ball and is one of their most creative players.

Andre Villas-Boas has never come up against Martin O’Neill before. With the hype around the Stadium of Light, he may have to get to know him sooner than expected. Yes, he’ll prepare for this game but I don’t expect him to be prepared for the ‘O’Neill effect’.

Sunderland are a long shot at 9.6 outright with Betfair, and are also an attractive 2.35 with a 1 goal headstart in the Asian Handicap market at Bet365.



  1. Chibby

    January 13, 2012 at 12:11 pm

    Even you can’t do your research properly, misinforming people. Torres has just 1 goal to his name this season, where have you been? Very tasteless article!

  2. Barrie

    January 13, 2012 at 6:01 pm

    Thanks for pointing that out, Chibby. I have corrected it now.

  3. wally

    January 13, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    Chibby,is the insult really necessary?

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