Chelsea - Sunderland Preview: Di Canio's Black Cats reign begins at Stamford Bridge
The Blues need a victory as they push for a top-four spot, while the Wearside outfit will be keen for a result as they aim to preserve their top-flight status under their new boss
By Shane Farrington
Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Luiz, Bertrand
Hazard, Oscar, Mata
Gardner, O'Shea, Bramble, Rose
Johnson, N'Diaye, Larsson, McClean
Blues boss Rafael Benitez is poised to make a host of changes from the starting XI which beat Rubin Kazan 3-1 in the Europa League on Thursday. Defensive duo Gary Cahill (knee) and Ashley Cole (hamstring) both remain sidelined.
John Obi Mikel, Eden Hazard and Oscar could all be recalled, while Demba Ba may replace Fernando Torres up front, despite the Spaniard scoring against the Russian side. Long-term injury absentee Oriol Romeu (knee) remains out injured.
As for the Black Cats, Paulo Di Canio will be without influential duo Lee Cattermole (knee) and Steven Fletcher (ankle) for the remainder of the season. Sebastian Larsson is likely to be handed a starting berth.
Upfront, Connor Wickham is pushing Danny Graham for a starting spot. However, defensive pair Wes Brown (knee) and Carlos Cuellar (ankle) are both still unavailable.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
- Chelsea have the joint-second best goalscoring record in the Premier League this season alongside Liverpool and Arsenal with 59 goals each. Only Manchester United (70) have netted more.
- Blues playmaker Juan Mata (pictured right), is the club’s leading scorer in all competitions so far this season with 18 goals.
The Spaniard is 9/2 with bet365 to score first in this game.
- Sunderland have only taken two points from their last six league matches - a 2-2 draw against Fulham and a 1-1 draw against Norwich.
- Paolo Di Canio was named 2012's LMA League Two Manager of the Year during his spell in charge of Swindon Town.
- Chelsea won the earlier meeting in the season between the two sides 3-1. A brace from Fernando Torres and a goal from Mata put them into a three-goal lead, before Adam Johnson scored.
- Black Cats midfielder Craig Gardner has received the joint-most yellow cards in the league so far this season alongside Liverpool’s Luis Suarez and Aston Villa’s Matthew Lowton. All three players have been booked nine times.
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Top 3 Predictions
Chelsea FC 3-0 Sunderland
- 23.37 %
Chelsea FC 2-0 Sunderland
- 15.33 %
Chelsea FC 3-1 Sunderland
- 12.75 %
|Capital One Cup (CCUP)||17 Dec 2013||Sunderland 2 - Chelsea FC 1|
|Premier League (EPL)||4 Dec 2013||Sunderland 3 - Chelsea FC 4|
|Premier League (EPL)||7 Apr 2013||Chelsea FC 2 - Sunderland 1|
|Premier League (EPL)||8 Dec 2012||Sunderland 1 - Chelsea FC 3|
|Premier League (EPL)||14 Jan 2012||Chelsea FC 1 - Sunderland 0|
|8 Mar 2014||Chelsea FC 4 - Tottenham 0||EPL|
|1 Mar 2014||Fulham 1 - Chelsea FC 3||EPL|
|26 Feb 2014||Galatasaray 1 - Chelsea FC 1||UCL|
|22 Feb 2014||Chelsea FC 1 - Everton 0||EPL|
|15 Feb 2014||Manchester City 2 - Chelsea FC 0||FA|
|12||John Obi Mikel||Midfielder|
The ex-Newcastle United man proved to be the match-winner in Chelsea's FA Cup win over Manchester United - netting a stunning goal. With his rival for a striking berth, Fernando Torres netting on Thursday in the Europa League, the 27-year-old could do with going on a scoring run to keep his place in Rafa Benitez's Premier League starting XI.
The 27-year-old has struggled in front of goal since arriving in January from Swansea City. With Steven Fletcher ruled out for the rest of the season, the Black Cats could do with him starting to find the back of the net. He was a real goal threat for Swansea, showing he is capable of scoring in the Premier League, and Di Canio will be keen for him to start to replicate those displays for his current side.
Chelsea are likely to make a host of changes from the side that played on Thursday and should be on a high after important back-to-back wins inside a week in the FA Cup and Europa League. Sunderland will be keen to start well under Di Canio but the hosts are likely to have too much going forward for them to handle.
Times In BST
Live Final scheduled Suspended Cancelled Postponed