Poor old Gus. He just can’t catch a break. If it’s not refereeing decisions or misfiring strikers, it’s the fixture schedule. After losing 2-0 to Stoke (in which Wes Brown was wrongly sent off) and drawing 0-0 at Aston Villa (in which Emanuele Giaccherini sent a shot over from four yards), Poyet has had his fair share of bad luck... and now faces Jose Mourinho’s Big Blue Machine.
- Villa 0-0 Sunderland (Prem)
- Stoke 2-0 Sunderland (Prem)
- Sunderland 1-0 Man City (Prem)
- Sunderland 2-1 So'ton (LC)
- Hull 1-0 Sunderland (Prem)
- Chelsea 3-1 So'ton (Prem)
- Basel 1-0 Chelsea (CL)
- West Ham 0-3 Chelsea (Prem)
- Chelsea 2-2 West Brom (Prem)
- Chelsea 3-0 Schalke (CL)
Not only are Chelsea second in the league and coming into this off an impressive 3-1 win over Southampton, they just don’t lose to Sunderland. Or draw against them for that matter. The Blues have won 16 of the last 17 meetings between these two clubs in the Premier League. Sunderland’s last win against Chelsea came in 2010, when the Black Cats recorded a famous 3-0 victory at Stamford Bridge under Steve Bruce. Remember him?
Poyet, an FA Cup winner with Chelsea in 2000, is desperately trying to build something from the wreckage left behind by Paolo Di Canio’s hand-grenade management.
While Mourinho’s return to the blue half of west London hasn't sparked the all-conquering stampede many expected, he has shown he still possesses the tactical acumen to outsmart a rival manager.
Sunday’s win over Southampton is a case in point. Both teams started the game in a 4-2-3-1 formation. The Saints took an early lead and dominated the first half to go in at the interval 1-0 up. Mourinho reined in his marauding full-backs, switched to a 4-4-2 and replaced midfielder Michael Essien with striker Demba Ba - and it completely changed the complexion of the game. With the Senegalese hitman playing alongside Fernando Torres the home side went on to win 3-1. Ba was involved in the equaliser and scored the third to put Mauricio Pochettino firmly back in his place.
Outfoxing Mourinho would be a nice feather to his cap, but Poyet will just want a result – no matter how it’s achieved.
After picking up a foot injury against Southampton, Chelsea’s Brazilian playmaker Oscar is out of the reckoning. His fellow countryman David Luiz will also miss the trip as he continues to recover from a knee injury. Samuel Eto’o has a chance of playing and Ashley Cole could come in to replace Cesar Azpilicueta at left-back.
The crocked trio of John O’Shea, Carlos Cuellar and Keiren Westwood will be missing for Sunderland.
Key battle: Wes Brown vs Fernando Torres
Torres keeps teasing us with glimpses of his former self. Time and again we all get excited and exclaim "He’s back!", but then he goes on a poor run of form and we say he’s rubbish again. While the goals haven’t flowed under Mourinho, his all-round play has improved – he’s sharper, quicker, stronger, more positive, more aggressive.
Despite his use of 4-4-2 to beat the Saints, it’s unlikely Mourinho will stick with it. Expect to see Chelsea back in a 4-2-3-1 with Torres leading the line: when he’s on his game, he’s a handful. During the Blues’ 2-1 win over Manchester City, the Spanish striker had five shots on goal – three hit the target, one found the net (albeit a tap-in after a mix-up between Joe Hart and Matija Nastasic). He also set up the equaliser for Andre Schurrle.
Torres won more aerial duels than any other player – three from five – and finished the match as one of the game’s top dribblers – achieving success with three of his eight attempts.
Veteran defender Brown, meanwhile, has got to try and slow him down. He might be 34 years old, but the former Manchester United player has shown he’s still got the legs for the Premier League. Against City’s all-star forward line he made more interceptions than any other player (6), more blocks (2) and the most clearances (8) to help Sunderland record a 1-0 win.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Chelsea 2-1 S'land (Prem, Apr 13)
- S'land 1-3 Chelsea (Prem, Dec 12)
- Chelsea 1-0 S'land (Prem, Jan 12)
- S'land 1-2 Chelsea (Prem, Sep 11)
- S'land 2-4 Chelsea (Prem, Feb 11)
Since taking over the reins from barmpot Di Canio, Poyet has picked up seven points from six games – including morale-boosting wins against high-flying Manchester City and north-east rivals Newcastle United. When he got the job Sunderland had just a single point. They’re now second from bottom, five points adrift of Cardiff just above the relegation zone.
Poyet is trying his best to build team spirit, but it’s hard when your predecessor created a toxic environment and signed 14 new players. He’s got one hell of a job on his hands and there will be no sympathy from Mourinho, who has his own pressures to deal with.
With the prodigal manager back and more than £60 million spent during the summer, expectations are as high as ever at Stamford Bridge. The Blues are second in the Premier League, four points behind leaders Arsenal, and have qualified for the knockout stages of the Champions League, despite losing twice to Basel.
It hasn’t been the dream start to Mourinho's second spell, but Chelsea are still very much in the running and slowly gathering momentum - which should continue to build against the struggling Black Cats.
Facts and figures
Tips and trends
TIPS & TRENDS
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- This is the first of two clashes between these two sides at the Stadium of Light inside a fortnight - Chelsea have won on each of their last eight trips.
- Sunderland have lost eight of their last 10 home fixtures against top-six teams, with seven of those results being L/L doubles.
- There have been at least three goals in eight of Chelsea’s last 10 away matches against bottom-six teams, with five of the last nine providing four or more goals.
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Chelsea to cruise to a comfortable 3-0 win.
Sunderland vs Chelsea LIVE ANALYSIS with Stats Zone