Sunderland must not write off Chelsea clash
Sunderland v Chelsea '“ one winner isn't there?
Or is there? The Blues have put together a run of form which has transformed them from the ordinary to extraordinary.
When Chelsea were spanked 3-0 by Arsenal on September 24, they were eighth in the Premier League – Antonio Conte’s side were even below Crystal Palace!
Nine games and nine wins further on, they lead the division and are chasing the perfect 10 at the Stadium of Light tomorrow night.
They have scored 23 goals in the stunning run and conceded only two.
On paper, Sunderland have no chance and some observers would joke less than no chance after a 3-0 defeat at Swansea City.
But boss David Moyes and his staff will be reminding their players tomorrow night’s bottom against top confrontation will be contested on grass and not paper.
Here are four key areas for the Black Cats ahead of the visit of the leaders.
Keep Costa quiet:
Easier said than done, but that is the task facing the home defence.
In-form Diego Costa is THE man of the moment - he is the Premier League’s top marksman with a dozen to date, the latest being a fine effort in the 1-0 win over West Brom at the weekend.
But he is more than a marksman. The Spanish striker has been involved in 17 goals in the league so far this season (12 goals, five assists).
Only twice has he failed to score or create (Arsenal and Man United) so if Papy Djilobodji and Lamine Kone can keep a lid on him, then the Black Cats have a chance.
Stadium of Fright factor:
Chelsea are not lacking in self-confidence.
But, and it’s a big but, the fact they were turned over on Wearside back in May will not be lost on the Londoners.
The Blues are likely to start with seven survivors from the day Sunderland won 3-2.
With the fervent home fans cheering every shot and tackle, the Black Cats came back from 1-0 and 2-1 down to triumph 3-2, Wahbi Khazri, Jermain Defoe and Fabio Borini scoring the goals to send 40-odd thousand red and white folk into delirium.
No team can match Chelsea’s run of results but, remember the law of averages, they are due a stumble. Could that be here?
Send on the Fab man:
Which Sunderland player loves scoring against Chelsea? Yep, it’s Fabio Borini.
The Italian has scored in each of his last three Premier League appearances against Chelsea, the club he started with in England.
Will Borini even feature? It’s a long shot, given the striker is only just back from a long injury absence following a groin problem.
David Moyes was prepared to roll the dice by sending on the crowd favourite with his side 2-0 behind at Swansea on Saturday. Alas, with the fourth official holding the board and the player ‘stripped’ and ready to go on and with Moyes whispering instructions in his shell-like, Swansea scored a third and he was sent back to the bench. But if he is needed, even for just a cameo tomorrow night, he has the knack against the Blues.
Black Cats must play with belief:
How many of the nine Chelsea victims been beaten before kick-off? You’d say not Man City and Spurs, but some of the others may have been frightened out of it.
Sunderland cannot go gung-ho – look what happened to Man City who were clinically picked off on the break.
Moyes and his coaching staff will have to get the balance right in their approach. Too defensive and they could be inviting trouble, but they will recall the sort of intensity they produced against Leicester when they gave the Foxes a really uncomfortable time.
Victor Anichebe and Jermain Defoe will relish the challenge of putting one over the Blues – Defoe’s goal sensor was off-target on Saturday, but he has scored in each of his last three home appearances and will want to extend that to four.