Not too long ago the prospect of playing Chelsea at Stamford Bridge would have filled fans of any club with dread such was their dominance at home. Couple that with what was our dreadful record in our Nation's fine capital for what seemed like an eternity made for a pools panel verdict of; Home win.
However, times they seem to have changed some what. Talk has moved on to Chelsea's aging squad, their young manager struggling to appease his mutinous squad, a number of key players away on International duty for the African Cup of Nations and the ever present ghost of Jose Mourinho rather than a side nailed on for domestic honours.
Many trace the beginning of this turbulent period back to November of 2010. You may remember it, a certain side in red and white stripes made the trip to Stamford Bridge and against all odds turned the home side over with a convincing 3-0 win. Can lightning strike twice or will Chelsea earn their revenge?
All that and more in our handy preview of Chelsea vs Sunderland.
Sunderland Team News:
Sunderland completed a hat trick of back-to-back wins with a comfortable victory at Peterborough in the FA Cup last time out, sidestepping any potential banana skin which ITV had conveniently laid in their path and keeping the momentum going.
Looking ahead to Saturday's clash SAFC have been busy(ish) in the transfer window, with the fan favourite, cult hero and heart attack inducing Nyron Nosworthy completing a move to Watford and fellow reserve players Billy Knott, John Eagan moving out on loan deals.
The Reserves ran out 3-1 winners midweek with long-term absentee Fraizer Campbell making his return to action and getting himself on the scoresheet. A spell for the second string to get back into the swing of things will do Campbell the world of good and O'Neill will be welcome of the extra options for his front line.
It was not all good news injury-wise however this week as news broke that Jack Colback will face up to a month on the sidelines following on from the ankle injury he picked up during the recent win at Wigan. Jack heroically played the full ninety minutes despite initially picking up the knock during the warm-up, a testament to how willing this squad are to play for O'Neill.
Onto team selection; Mignolet will continue his run in goal following his return from injury. I must admit I was worried that such a serious facial injury would knock his confidence, much like his opposite number on Saturday Petr Cech, however there has been little evidence of this so far. As for the back four ahead of him, why fix what isn't broke? Bardsley and Richardson returned to their full back spots at the weekend and their pace could be an important asset going into the game with Chelsea. O'Shea is nailed on to start when available and Matt Kilgallon has impressed since coming in from the wilderness.
The midfield four almost picks itself at the moment, Sebastian Larsson, James McClean, David Vaughan and the ever improving Lee Cattermole looking set to start again, with possibly Sessegnon dropping deeper to create central five when required.
As for the strikeforce, whilst I would prefer to see Connor Wickham (if fit of course) make a nuisance of himself in and around Chelsea's you would presume a start for Nicklas Bendtner is more likely. Hopefully the Dane can
raise his game for one of the bigger clubs.
Chelsea Team News:
The much discussed transfer of Gary Cahill to Chelsea from Bolton Wanderers seem to be winding up now and given their problems at the back you would expect the centre back to slot straight into the starting eleven if the deal goes through in time.
Players leaving Stamford Bridge include the highly rated Josh McEachran on a season's long loan with Swansea, a perfect move for the midfielder to gain some much needed experience and time on the pitch. The African Cup of Nations will also hamper Andreas Villas Boas' selection options as Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou jet off for the
Chelsea may also be left sweating over the fitness of John Terry who has been suffering with a knee injury he picked up colliding with the post whilst making a goal-line clearance at the weekend. The skipper is expected to win his race for fitness however.
SAFC: Mignolet, Bardsley, O'Shea, Kilgallon, Richardson, Larsson, Cattermole, Vaughan, McClean, Sessegnon, Bendtner
Chesea: Cech, Cole, Terry, Cahill, Bosingwa, Romeu, Ramires, Lampard, Mata, Sturridge, Torres
Lets call it a modern classic. No SAFC fan will ever forgot the night that Sunderland travelled to Stamford Bridge and pulled off one of the biggest upsets in recent memory, well the Manchester City result probably tops it but its right up there surely! Undoubtedly it was also Steve Bruce's greatest moment during his tenure as he saw his side demolish Chelsea on their own patch with a thoroughly convincing, confident and deserved 3-0 win.
It was a game full of memorable moments; Nedum Onouha's Maradona-esq goal just before half time to open the scoring, Asamoah Gyan and more notably this week's Cult Hero Bolo Zenden's celebration following the Ghanaian's goal to double the away sides advantage and then Ashley Cole's wayward backpass which allowed Danny Welbeck to complete the rout.
Could lightning strike twice this weekend?
Get Rich Quick:
Wow, which way do you call this one? The heart is still pumping furiously with excitement courtesy of the O'Neill Effect and believes another win is not out of the question, whilst the head knows that this run has to end at some point.
Lets hedge our bets and go for a draw with this one.
- A draw between the two sides is available for around 7/2.
- There are usually plenty of goals between the two sides and a pulsating 2-2 draw is available for around 20/1.
- Stephane Sessegnon was isolated and frustrated against Peterborough, I would expect him to bounce back with a better performance this weekend and is available as the first goal scorer for around 11/1
- Another 3-0 win? Be sure to shop around, prices seem to be ranging from 100/1 up to 200/1!
Song For Whoever
There is only one song that will always come to mind when I think of Chelsea... Oh and if you don't like Scrubs, you my friend, you have no soul.
It's going to be a tough as no doubt but I think SAFC have enough about them to come away from Stamford Bridge with a point, I'll go for a 2-2 draw.