SAFC v Chelsea (H) Preview

A Sunderland team full of renewed optimism and fresh faces take on Chelsea, who on transfer deadline day landed some fella called Fernando Torres for a fee close to £50m. Quite desperate measures taken by the Londoners to try and avoid another 3-0 defeat to the mighty Black Cats...

SAFC Team News

I'll put it out there now; I'm confident heading into this game. A few rotten weeks have gone by with Notts County and Newcastle being poor games, and also the loss of Darren Bent, but now we have reasons to be cheerful.

A cracking team performance against Blackpool which saw the lads come away with a well earned 2-1 win, will have given the lads a huge lift, and now we have additions to the squad; Sulley Muntari, and Stephane Sessegnon.

Muntari will not play according to Bruce, and will instead make his debut away at Stoke City on Saturday, but look for Sessegnon to be in the matchday squad.

The majority of our injuries are long term, or at the very best a few weeks away. This is apart from Lee Cattermole, who could well be back for this game according to Brucey.

Along the back five, Craig Gordon will continue his fine form in goal, Nedum Onouha & Phil Bardsley to fill the fullback slots, with Titus Bramble partnering Anton Ferdinand at the back. John Mensah is fit and available, but expect to see the Ghanaian warm the bench, as there's no reason to be dropping Ferdinand or Bramble.

In midfield, the shift to 5 proved very successful at Blackpool, and there's no reason to change that. Bruce has said Sessegnon will play against Chelsea, and I'm very excited to see him line-up for the lads. I'd imagine he'll take the 'Richardson Role' in behind Gyan. Who will make way for the Benin Bomber though? It's going to be a touch one to call, but I think Bolo Zenden will be the odd man out. Leaving a midfield of Cattermole (in at the expense of Elmohamady) & Richardson holding, with Henderson, Sessegnon & Malbranque license to roam. I love that midfield. I really do. It'll get even better when Muntari joins the action.

And up front, is it even worth mentioning? It's gonna be Gyan, because we have nobody else. Gyan performed much better at Blackpool with players buzzing around him, and his willingness to collect the ball deep and play others in was integral to our new 4-5-1 working.

Bruce's Probable Team:
Gordon; Onouha, Bardsley, Ferdinand, Bramble; Cattermole, Richardson; Henderson, Sessegnon, Malbranque; Gyan

My Team:
Gordon; Onouha, Bardsley, Ferdinand, Bramble; Cattermole, Richardson; Henderson, Sessegnon, Malbranque; Gyan

From the Chelsea side:

I think we are fully aware of Chelsea's personnel, and even with the addition of Fernando Torres, I can't see the Spaniard being thrust straight into the first team. It would be nice for us if he wasn't anyway, the prospect of facing Drogba AND Torres is pretty daunting if both are on form.

Chelsea played a strong team in the FA Cup at the weekend where they drew 1-1 with Everton, and I can see Carlo Ancelotti making few changes.

Fat Frank recently returned from injury, and he'll continue in midfield alongside Essien, Ramires & Malouda. Bolo Zenden and Lee Cattermole will have to take a careful look at him, just as we did at Blackpool with Charlie Adam, as most the play will come through the England 'Star'.

Another point will be taking care of Essien, not allowing him time on the ball. The way I've noticed teams take care of Chelsea, is to not allow the holding midfielder time on the ball. Essien coming deep to pick the ball off Terry & (probably) Ivanovic and make things happen further ahead of him. We did this well at Chelsea, and look what happened there.

Aside from that, I'm not overly worried by anything.

Prediction

I'm confident going into this one, as I said at the top of the article. I think we've an outside squeak of getting a win, but doing the double over Chelsea would be a dream, and this is Sunderland. I'll take a draw if it was offered.

I just hope we don't show them too much respect, and get in their faces a bit. I'm going for a 1-1 draw, Gyan opening the scoring for the good guys early doors, and Didier Drogba breaking our hearts late in the second half.

Ha'way lads, we've got a great chance here if things go our way and if we play to our full potential, like we did at Stamford Bridge.

Don't forget you can check out the thoughts of Chelsea fan, Graham MacAree, right here in our Fan Focus feature.

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