MX23RW : Thursday, February 25 07:40:37| >> :120:26666:26666:
Apr 19, 2014 at 5.30pm UK at Stamford Bridge
Eto'o (11')
FT(HT: 1-1)
Wickham (18'), Borini (82' pen.)

Preview: Chelsea vs. Sunderland

Sports Mole previews the Premier League clash between title-chasing Chelsea and bottom-of-the-table Sunderland, who are managed by former Blue Gus Poyet.

Chelsea can move back to the top of the Premier League and hammer another nail in Sunderland's relegation coffin when they meet at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

The Blues kept within striking distance of leaders Liverpool with a 1-0 win over Swansea City last Sunday, courtesy of Demba Ba's second goal in two games.

Ahead of their trip to Anfield next weekend, the Champions League semi-finalists know that they cannot afford to slip up against the bottom-of-the-table Black Cats.

Former Chelsea favourite Gus Poyet should not be expecting any favours from his old employers, who continue to be invincible at home in the league under Jose Mourinho, with no defeats in 77 games.

Sunderland snatched an unlikely point at Manchester City in midweek, but still remain six points adrift of safety and have not won since featuring in the Capital One Cup final on March 2.

With Stamford Bridge and Old Trafford their next away destinations, it would take some turnaround for the Black Cats to avoid the drop, with leading bookmaker SkyBet pricing them at 1/12 certainties.

Connor Wickham could yet be their saviour, though. The 21-year-old striker, who had been loaned out to Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds United earlier in the season, scored both in the 2-2 draw at Eastlands.

He will continue up front in the capital, with support coming from either Chelsea reject Fabio Borini or his Italian compatriot Emmanuele Giaccherini, who are fighting for a start on the left wing.

First-team regular Phil Bardsley continues to serve a suspension and so Santiago Vergini will be retained at right-back if Carlos Cuellar does not pass a late fitness test on a muscle strain.

Ki Sung-Yueng, Steven Fletcher and Kieren Westwood remain sidelined so Jack Colback, who along with Bardsley has been tipped to leave the Stadium of Light in the summer, should start again in midfield.

Mourinho is unlikely to risk Eden Hazard, who has missed Chelsea's last three outings, with Atletico Madrid and Liverpool on the horizon, so Mohamed Salah could continue in an attacking midfield role.

The Egyptian is ineligible for Champions League duty on Wednesday, as is Nemanja Matic, and so both are certain to start this weekend as Mourinho saves some players for the Vicente Calderon Stadium.

It is unclear, though, whether Ba will be given the chance to build on his two match-winning goals, or be rested for the trip to Spain, with Samuel Eto'o, who has been preferred in home games this term, recalled.

Due to Branislav Ivanovic's continental suspension, Ashley Cole will be required against Atletico and Mourinho may see the visit of Sunderland as an opportunity to give the out-of-favour left-back a run-out.

Chelsea have kept clean sheets in their last six Premier League matches on their own soil.

Recent form

Chelsea: WWWLLW

Sunderland: DLLLLL

Possible starting lineups

Chelsea: Cech; Ivanovic, Terry, Cahill, Cole; Matic, Ramires; Schurrle, Oscar, Salah; Eto'o

Sunderland: Mannone; Cuellar, Brown, O'Shea, Alonso; Cattermole, Colback, Larsson; Johnson, Borini, Wickham

Sports Mole says: 3-0


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Jordon Mutch of Cardiff City celebrates scoring the opening goal during the Barclays Premier League match against Sunderland on December 28, 2013
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