Next Saturday, April 19, 2014 (9:30 AM Pacific), Chelsea will entertain Sunderland at Stamford Bridge for round 35 of the English Premier League, in a match of capital importance for both sides.
After last weekend’s narrow win against Swansea and their midweek excellent win over PSG, Chelsea will measure forces with a team that in desperate need to score points to avoid a painful relegation. After Chelsea’s defeat at Selhurst Park against Crystal Palace later last month, José Mourinho managed to rally the troops and start a new cycle of positive results and quality performances. Next Saturday and despite the fact of being a far better team than Sunderland, Chelsea will need to be fully focused if they want to take something positive out of the match. Next Tuesday’s Champions League clash against Atlético Madrid might somehow deviate the players’ attention and that could prove to be fatal for the aspirations of José Mourinho’s side of winning the Premier League title this season.
For next Saturday’s clash, the Portuguese manager is not yet certain if he will be able to count on the Belgian wonderkid Eden Hazard, who is not yet fully recovered from the injury he suffered against PSG last week. Even if the Belgian attacking midfielder manages to recover until the day of the match, it is not likely that José Mourinho will use him in order to give him more time to rest and recover for next Tuesday Champions League clash at Vicente Calderón.
As for Sunderland, this has been a nightmarish season so far with several ups and downs, which culminated with the fact that the team currently occupies the last place of the Premier League table. After the team’s midweek good performance against the all-powerful Manchester City that ended on a 2-2 draw at Etihad Stadium, Sunderland’s head coach, Gus Poyet, was very optimistic for the matches to come. In a post match interview, the Uruguayan manager and former Chelsea player expressed his hopes for a good result at Stamford Bridge: “It was an excellent performance by us against City,” (…)”It’s the sort of performance which is going to give us that word that I absolutely hate – which is ‘confidence’. (…) “I don’t like using that word that, but it is true. Given as well as we played against City, it will give us a bit of hope against Chelsea this weekend. (…) “I think now the players will believe they might get something.”
Poyet has somehow inherited the burden left behind by Paolo Di Canio (airtouch he is probably not the only one to blame for such a catastrophic season), and despite some good performances the team never managed to achieve the consistency he had certainly hoped for.
For next Saturday’s clash, Gus Poyet will not be able to count on Keiren Westwood, Steven Fletcher, and Ki Sung-Yeung, all injured, and on Phil Bardsley, who is suspended.
Sunderland has suffered seven defeats in the last nine matches; thus their draw against Manchester City caught everyone by surprise. However, the Black Cats desperately need to win in order to recover from the complicated situation they seem to be stuck in and an away match against Chelsea is probably not the best time to start that recovery.
When both teams met at Stadium of Light last December, Chelsea won 4-3 on a thrilling and close game that was only decided in the last ten minutes of the match. This being said, the most likely outcome is 2-0 for Chelsea.
Chelsea (4-3-3) – Cech – Ivanovic – Terry – Cahill – Cole – Matic – Lampard – Oscar – Willian – Salah – Ba
Sunderland (4-1-4-1) – Mannone – Vergini – O’Shea – Brown – Alonso – Cattermole – Johnson – Colback – Larsson – Giaccherini – Wickham
Venue: Stamford Bridge
TV Info: NBC, Sky Sports 1 HD (UK).