Not much needs to be said about The Blues’ form going into Saturday’s late kick off against Sunderland – unbeaten in 12 Premier League games now, with 32 points from a possible 36 – but as fans should remember, the North-Eastern opponents have recently given Chelsea a few headaches, especially last season.
Out of three games played against Sunderland last term, Chelsea lost two; the first a 2-1 extra-time defeat in the League Cup, and the second being the infamous loss that ended Mourinho’s unprecedented run of unbeaten games at home – a match that was also remembered for a controversial penalty and a very angry Rui Faria.
The last league game away to Sunderland, however, was a more positive result for Chelsea, if not a bit concerning for the number of goals conceded. Eden Hazard shone brightest at the Stadium of Light, scoring twice in a 4-3 win. In fact, Chelsea’s league record at Sunderland is very good, on Saturday they will be looking for their tenth successive win in the Mackem’s back yard.
Sunderland will be starting a difficult week of games, with upcoming fixtures against Manchester City and Liverpool, so expect them to be looking to start this run with a positive result. This weekend’s hosts go into the game unbeaten in three matches; whilst not setting the world on fire it is a platform for them to build on, and is something Mourinho is likely to warn his team about – it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Chelsea try and nip any Sunderland confidence in the bud by starting as quickly as they did last week against both West Brom and Schalke, both utterly commanding performances that looked ominous for all of Chelsea’s upcoming opponents.
Gus Poyet, the second ex-Chelsea player sat opposite Mourinho in the dug-out this week, will be pleased that defender Sebastian Coates and midfielder Ricky Alvarez both expect to have recovered from their respective injuries. Dutch left-back and former Chelsea prospect Patrick van Aanholt is not available, however, having not recovered from a shoulder problem.
Jose Mourinho now seems to know exactly what his best 11 is, so don’t expect to see any radical changes. Courtois, Terry, Cahill, Ivanovic and Azpilicueta have become a very settled defence, frustratingly so for Kurt Zouma and Filipe Luis, who have both played well in each of their appearances so far. In front of the back four Matic and Fabregas have proven to be an extremely effective and dynamic duo sat behind the red-hot attack of Hazard, Oscar and Willian, who are all looking more cohesive and dangerous each week. The team will of course be led by the ‘goal pig’ Diego Costa, as long as he is fit.