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Preview: Sunderland hoping to continue Chelsea hoodoo

Sunderland host Chelsea on Saturday evening, hoping to extend their winning run to three games over the current league leaders.

Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Sunderland Team News

Gus Poyet could potentially name an unchanged side ahead of a run that sees his side face Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool within seven days.

Should that happen, then Connor Wickham will look to continue adapting to his left-sided starting position, linking up with centre-forward Steven Fletcher - with Lee Cattermole patrolling at the base of midfield.

Sebastian Coates and Ricky Alvarez are closing in on a return to action, but Billy Jones, Emanuele Giaccherini and Patrick van Aaholt remain on the sideline.

Chelsea Team News

After a resounding win in the Champions League in midweek, Jose Mourinho only has to assess main striker Diego Costa - after he was substituted in the victory over Schalke.

With only Nathan Ake considered a serious injury, Chelsea too may name the same starting line-up.

Predicted Line-ups

Sunderland vs Chelsea - Football tactics and formations

Sunderland: Pantilimon; Vergini, Brown, O'Shea, Reveillere; Cattermole; Johnson, Larsson, Gomez, Wickham; Fletcher

Chelsea: Courtois; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta; Matic, Fabregas; Willian, Oscar, Hazard; Costa

Key Match-up: Wes Brown v Wes Brown

Despite a season that has bordered on the calamitous, Brown has tended to be dependable when facing more reputable opposition, particularly Manchester City at home under di Canio - his first game in 22 months - and both games at Old Trafford last season.

With John O'Shea expected to contend with Diego Costa, Brown must contend with his own current struggles in order to ensure an encouraging performance.

Recent Form: WWDWWW

Win: Chelsea 2-0 Arsenal (Hazard 27, Costa 78)

Win: Crystal Palace 1-2 Chelsea (Campbell 90; Oscar 6, Fabregas 51)

Draw: Manchester United 1-1 Chelsea (van Persie 90+3; Drogba 53)

Win: Chelsea 2-1 Queens Park Rangers (Oscar 32, Hazard 75; Austin 62)

Win: Liverpool 1-2 Chelsea (Can 9; Cahill 14, Costa 67)

Win: Chelsea 2-0 West Bromwich Albion (Costa 11, Hazard 25)

Last Time Around: Sunderland 3-4 Chelsea, 04/12/13

A midweek game that had all the collectibles; a Jozy Altidore goal, Eden Hazard showing his class and an entirely avoidable Phil Bardsley own goal.

After Altidore's opener, Frank Lampard routinely equalised before John O'Shea would peg back the first of two second half Hazard strikes. Bardsley would later atone for his error with a consolation goal, but the damage had been done.

More recently, Sunderland celebrated a 2-1 win over Jose Mourinho's side at the Stadium of Light, through extenuating circumstances such as it was in the Capital One Cup, in extra time, and the poor lambs were tired.

The Ref: Kevin Friend

Aye, him. After sending Wes Brown off last season for daring to make contact with the ball, Sunderland have only had the ‘privilege' of meeting him once this season - the 2-0 defeat to Arsenal. Perhaps, I'm being too harsh, as he did oversee both Ji and Adam Johnson versions of the 1-0 win over Manchester City, but then there's the John Mensah red card and the two down in Portsmouth that time. Always a pleasure, Kev.

What The Managers Said

Gus Poyet

This is a different Chelsea - a better one and a stronger one than last year. They were strong favourites before the season started and now after the games we've played so far without a doubt they are even bigger favourites.

They are the best team in the country by far. I watched the (Schalke) game and it was impressive - let's hope they're not perfect again. For us it is the biggest challenge by far and when you play against the best team you need to be at your best.

Jose Mourinho

I'm sure there is much more to come. It's a young team, with lots of young players. I have two more years of contract to work with them, they want to stay, I want to stay. There is a lot ahead of us but this team has all the conditions to be better.

Roker Report Predicts

That a Sunderland performance may be the least surprising thing possible. Granted, Chelsea look fluid and forthright in their approach at present, but Poyet has shown that he excels tactically in these sorts of challenges. I quite fancy Sunderland to concede at a set-piece, before rallying and scoring a late equaliser. So we'll go with 1-1.