Chelsea will need to avoid defeat to Sunderland at the Stadium of Light this evening in order to maintain their unbeaten start to the season.
Jose Mourinho’s side can move nine points clear of second-placed Southampton by securing all three points from today’s fixture - but the west London outfit haven’t always had things their own way against the Black Cats in recent months.
Indeed, in the last meeting between the two sides, Sunderland recorded a shock 2-1 win at Stamford Bridge to inflict Mourinho’s first home Premier League defeat in 78 games as Chelsea manager.
Four months earlier, Sunderland knocked Chelsea out of the League Cup en route to reaching the final of the competition. And two weeks prior to that, the two Premier League clubs played out a seven-goal thriller, which Chelsea ended up winning 4-3.
Sunderland may fancy their chances of upsetting the apple-cart once again, even if their recent form has been somewhat disappointing.
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Since their humiliating 8-0 defeat to Southampton in October they have improved: Gus Poyet’s men are currently three Premier League matches unbeaten. But avoiding defeat against the machine-like Chelsea, who thrashed Schalke 5-0 in mid-week, will prove an extremely difficult task.
Sunderland: Pantilimon, Vergini, O’Shea, Brown, Reveillere, Larsson, Cattermole, Rodwell, Johnson, Fletcher, Wickham.
Subs: Mannone, Coates, Bridcutt, Gomez, Alvarez, Buckley, Altidore
Chelsea: Courtois; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry (c), Azpilicueta; Matic, Fabregas; Willian, Oscar, Hazard; Diego Costa.
Subs: Cech, Zouma, Filipe Luis, Mikel, Schurrle, Remy, Drogba.