Chelsea travels north from London on Saturday Dec. 7 when they visit the Stadium of Light to take on Sunderland in an important English Premier League meeting. New Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez won his first game in charge of the club on Wednesday when they managed to thump FC Nordsjaelland 6-1 in the Champions League, but it didn’t mean anything in the standings as they went crashing out of the tournament in the group stages. The reigning European champions finished their group in third place and will now enter the Europa League competition. Benitez is still looking for his first league win after a loss and a pair of draws.
Chelsea is still hanging on to third place in the standings with 26 points from seven wins, five draws and three defeats. They have 26 goals for and 16 against. They go into the game 10 points behind first-place Manchester United and actually share third spot on points with both Tottenham and West Brom. Sunderland is mired in 17th spot, just one ahead of the relegation zone with 13 points from a pair of wins, seven draws and five losses. They’re also just one point ahead of Southampton for the last relegation spot. They have a pathetic 13 goals for in 14 games and have allowed 18 against.
Sunderland manager Martin O’Neill hasn’t done much for the team lately as they struggled at the end of last season and has continued to be one of the league’s most mediocre squads this season. They’ve managed just two wins in their past 22 contests and if it wasn’t for the high number of draws in that period, O’Neill may well have been sacked by now. He’s quickly running out of chances and this match against Chelsea could be crucial to his continued employment. He seems to be able to talk a good game, but can’t get his payers to play one on the pitch.
On the bright side, it looks like the manager will have defender John O’Shea back in the team as well as striker Steven Fletcher. One hates to think where Sunderland may be in the standings without Fletcher since he’s scored six of their 13 goals this campaign. It’s still going to be a game-time decision on both players though. O’Shea had a calf injury and Fletcher had to hobble off the pitch last week in their loss to Norwich with an ankle injury. One player who will definitely be missing is captain Lee Cattermole as he has a serious knee injury and will be out for about eight weeks.
Chelsea should have midfielder Frank Lampard back in the squad while defender John Terry is still out with an injury. Terry has a problem with knee ligaments and Lampard was injured back in October with a calf injury. It’s also believed that striker Daniel Sturridge will miss the game with a hamstring issue, but should make the trip to Japan with the club for the Club World Cup competition. In addition, John Obi Mikel is out of action due to a three-match suspension.
Both teams have been playing subpar football lately, but Chelsea definitely has more skillful players and should be able to leave Sunderland with a draw at the very least.
William Hill has the latest betting odds of a Sunderland win at 19/5 with a Chelsea victory at 4/5 and a draw at 12/5.