Chelsea kick off their first home game without an unbeaten run behind them for the first time in over four years against Sunderland, so I guess it’s a bonus we haven’t lost consecutive home games in the league for six and a half years. Sunderland, on the other hand, haven’t won at Stamford Bridge for 51 years.
In the run up to the game, it’s a bit of a mutual appreciation society, with Roy Keane stating “We’re glad to have another game so soon after Stoke but we’re not glad it’s Chelsea, they’re a fantastic team with an unbelievable home record. I was asked at the start of the season who would win it [the Premier League] and I said Chelsea. They’ve got a brilliant manager and brilliant players and they know what it takes to win the league. I know Liverpool are top and doing really well at the moment and [Manchester] United and Arsenal are top teams but I just fancy Chelsea, I’m sticking to my guns. We know it is a hugely difficult game but we’ve got to believe we can do something.”
Whilst of Roy Keane and his Sunderland side, Scolari says “He’s intelligent and he’s learned lots from the coaches he’s worked with over the years, he can be a good coach. They’ll come here and try to work hard at the back, close down and make many counter-attacks. They have good players for this. They close down in the midfield. Maybe we’ll only have four or five opportunities, maximum, so if we don’t take them, it’ll be hard.”
On the injury front, Chelsea are without Ricardo Carvalho who injured a hamstring against Hull midweek. Joe Cole (ankle) is a doubt and both Michael Ballack (foot) and Michael Essien (knee) continue to miss out.
For Sunderland, keeper Craig Gordon (ankle) is doubtful although Phil Bardsley (leg) should make it back in the squad and striker Kenwyne Jones is likely to start following his recovery from a knee injury.
Frank Lampard – I don’t really want to do this seeing as every player I’ve picked out for us so far has either not played, been injured, or just had a bad day at the office. But, given the sort of form Lampard’s been in for Chelsea so far this season, I can see him being the main player pulling the strings from the Chelsea midfield.
Kenwyne Jones – The Trinidad and Tobago international will no doubt be looking to get back on the goal trail following his return from injury. His size and strength means he’s got the sort of physical presence that unsettles more than the odd defence and could do a bit of damage with Ricardo Carvalho missing and John Terry looking a lot less invincible this season.
Chelsea have lost only one game in all competitions so far this season, with only one defeat in their last 31 Premier League games. Chelsea currently have the tightest defence in the league, with only one goal conceded in five games and they’re on the longest current run in the league, going 18 games since conceding more than a single goal. The Blues have won their last seven games against North-East clubs in the league and haven’t lost at home to a North East club in 18 games. Chelsea go into this game 2nd in the Premier League with 23 points.
Sunderland are looking for their 25th away win in their Premier League history. They boast seven points from the last nine in London, although they’d lost on the previous 14 visits. Sunderland’s midweek defeat against Stoke was the fourth time they’ve failed to score this season, however, Chelsea would be wise to take note that 8 of the Black Cats 13 league and cup goals this season have come in the last ten minutes of the game. Sunderland go into this game in 10th place in the Premier League, with 12 points.
HEAD TO HEAD
Chelsea did the double over Sunderland last season and go into this game looking for their winning run against the Wearsiders to stretch to five games. Sunderland, on the other hand, have won only once at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League, seven years ago. In seven Premier League home games against Sunderland, Chelsea have scored 23 goals.
Home and Away
League (inc PL): Chelsea 47 wins, Sunderland 35 wins, Draws 20
Prem: Chelsea 9 wins, Sunderland 4 wins, Draws 1
At Chelsea only
League (inc PL): Chelsea 33 wins, Sunderland 7 wins, Draws 11
Prem: Chelsea 6 wins, Sunderland 1 win, Draws 0
Chelsea 2-0 Sunderland
Chelsea scorers: Shevchenko 23, Lampard 75 pen
8 December 2007 – Ref: Peter Walton
With their unbeaten home run brought to an end by Liverpool last week, you’d assume the pressure might be off Chelsea and they could play with a little more freedom at Stamford Bridge now. However, with Liverpool now 3 points clear at the top of the table, there’s still the pressure of chasing them. Roy Keane’s lads meanwhile will have had a rocket up their backsides after what he considered an unacceptable performance against Stoke, so this one could turn into a bit of a battle. The increasingly fragile looking John Terry could be in for a rough ride and Chelsea will need to have their wits about them if they want to keep out any late goals from a persistent Sunderland side.
CHELSEA (from): Cech, Cudicini, Hilario, A Cole, Bridge, Ferreira, Ivanovic, , Bosingwa, Alex, Terry, Mikel, Lampard, Belletti, Malouda, Deco, Kalou, J Cole? Anelka, Drogba, Sinclair, Stoch
SUNDERLAND (from): Gordon? Fulop, Colgan, Bardsley, Chimbonda, Ferdinand, Nosworthy, Collins, McCartney, Malbranque, Whitehead, Tainio, Leadbitter, Miller, Yorke, Richardson, Reid, Diouf, Jones, Cisse, Chopra, Murphy, Healy, Waghorn
Martin Atkinson (Yorkshire)