Chelsea vs Sunderland Preview, Team News, Likely Line-ups & Predicted Score
Chelsea welcome Sunderland with new boss Paolo Di Canio to Stamford Bridge on Sunday afternoon. Here’s a preview with team news and line-ups for the big game.
Chelsea welcome relegation-threatened Sunderland to Stamford Bridge on Sunday afternoon looking to maintain their hopes of a top-four finish this season.
The big talk before the game has been the appointment of Paolo Di Canio as Sunderland boss after the northerners sacked Martin O’Neill, with the Italians political views being under the spotlight in the media this week.
But football will take centre stage on Sunday with the Blues desperate for another three points to keep clear of fifth-placed Arsenal, who are only two points adrift following Chelsea’s 2-1 loss to Southampton last Saturday and could leapfrog the west Londoners if they win at WBA on Saturday.
Rafa Benitez rested several players for the game against the Saints and was perhaps justified in his decision after recording follow-up victories over Manchester United in the FA Cup on Monday and Rubin Kazan in the Europa League on Thursday night, but the Spaniard will be keen to get back to winning ways in the league this weekend.
Sunday’s fixture will be Chelsea’s fourth in just nine days and Benitez will hope fatigue doesn’t start to kick in during a vital part of the season, and he’s likely to rotate his squad once again to keep things fresh.
The visitors are also desperate for points with Di Canio’s only task being to ensure the Black Cats avoid relegation from the Premier League this season. However, Sunderland sit just one point above the drop zone following last weeks loss against Man Utd and are now without a win in their last eight games, so the Italians job isn’t going to be an easy one.
With the fixture congestion showing no signs of letting up, Benitez is expected to shuffle his pack once again. Demba Ba could come back in to start up front despite Fernando Torres scoring a moral-boosting brace in midweek.
Branislav Ivanovic, Oscar, Eden Hazard and John-Obi Mikel were all left on the bench against Kazan so are likely to get recalls on Sunday, with the likes of John Terry and Frank Lampard expected to make way. Ashley Cole remains on the sidelines so Ryan Bertrand will continue at left-back.
Di Canio is sweating over the fitness of midfielder David Vaughan who is struggling with a groin problem. Defender Carlos Cuellar is also a doubt with an ankle injury so Titus Bramble and John O’Shea may have to continue at the back.
Captain Lee Cattermole and striker Steven Fletcher are both certain to miss out after being ruled out for the season with knee and ankle injuries, but Wes Brown may feature again this season after making a slow recovery from a knee problem.
Sebastien Larsson was left on the bench for last weekend’s defeat to United but may get a recall.
Sunderland are on a terrible run having won none of their last eight while Chelsea have won their last five at home. To add to this, this Blues have an excellent record against the Black Cats having won 15 of their 16 league games so I can only see a home win here. Chelsea 2-0 Sunderland
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