Frank Lampard is missing again as Blues sweat on Nicolas Anelka and Alex.
If Chelsea win on Sunday they will set a Premier League record of 12 straight wins against a single team - Sunderland - a fact which, unsurprisingly, makes the Blues overwhelming favourites for this clash. Carlo Ancelotti's side are also hoping to set a club of record of 10 consecutive clean sheets in the league at Stamford Bridge as they entertain the Black Cats.
But both could be overshadowed by the departure of assistant manager Ray Wilkins who was unceremoniously sacked on Thursday, with rumours hanging over Stamford Bridge regarding the reasons why and the identity of his likely successor. Ancelotti would only say: "Ray was a fantastic assistant coach - I want to say thanks to him because he was a fantastic support last season and this season."
At the Black Cats' press conference on Friday manager Steve Bruce boasted that Sunderland "were one of only three teams to score more than one goal at Chelsea last season." It may have been in a 7-2 defeat, but that doesn't stop the Wearsiders approaching this game with a posivite attitude.
And they'll need it because the Blues have won 28 and lost just one of their last 31 league matches, and without star striker Darren Bent the visitors may struggle to find the net again this time.
Hopes that Frank Lampard had recovered in time to make his first start for two months were dashed on Friday after it was revealed that he had injured his groin in training. Not that the Blues have been doing badly without him - sitting top of the Premier League and cruising through to the knockout stages of the Champions League; but his return would have been a welcome boost.
Meanwhile, Michael Essien's red card on Wednesday for a two-footed lunge at Clint Dempsey has earned him a three-match ban starting with Sunday's visit of Sunderland. Defender Alex is struggling with a knee injury but Nicolas Anelka should return after missing the win over Fulham.
Yossi Benayoun is Chelsea's long term injury victim; the Israeli is still sitting things out with an Achilles problem, and will continue to do so well into next year.
Probable starting XI: Cech; Boswinga, Terry, Ivanovic, Cole; Zhirkov, Ramires, Malouda, Mikel; Kalou, Drogba.
Darren Bent misses out again for Sunderland with a hamstring injury, which means in-form Ghanaian Asamoah Gyan continues to lead the attack.
Defender John Mensah has a shoulder problem and won't play while Anton Ferdinand is also out for three weeks. Fraizer Campbell (knee), Matt Kilgallon (back) and Trevor Carson (shoulder) remain sidelined.
Probable starting XI: Gordon, Bramble, Bardsley, Turner, Onuoha, Richardson, Cattermole, Riveros, Zenden, Henderson, Gyan.
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