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Match Preview: Chelsea (H) - This One's For Bradley Lowery

Tomorrow's game with Chelsea is not only a chance for the Sunderland supporters to see their team perform against the best side in the league, but a chance for us all to be a part of one of the most special and amazing evenings in the recent history of this football club.

Sunderland v Everton - Premier League Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Bradley Lowery and his family received the devastating news last week that his rare form of cancer, known as Neuroblastoma, has spread and has likely become untreatable. Bradley will walk out at the Stadium of Light as a mascot tomorrow night, whilst a banner baring his picture will be unfurled in the South Stand in a show of kind support from the Sunderland fans that have been captivated by his sad and heartbreaking story since becoming a huge part of our club in 2016.

Bradley's strength and spirit is commendable - and if his ability to remain such a happy, joyous child despite facing terrifying fears that most of us could not even begin to comprehend does not inspire the Sunderland players to go out and battle for ninety minutes then nothing else ever will.

We've spoke increasingly about Sunderland needing to give ourselves a positive mental attitude when approaching games on this website and whilst it could be said that being overly-confident cost us the game at the weekend when we faced Swansea, being negative when facing off against the top sides has done us absolutely no good so far this season.

Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham make up the top five in the Premier League and our latest opponents are the only team from that group that we have yet to face so far this season. We've lost all four of those games, but only really looked vulnerable against Arsenal - against Manchester City, Spurs and Liverpool we spent much of each game defending for our lives before ultimately succumbing because we simply aren't good enough to sustain that level of solidarity when facing far superior sides.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that we should pile forward and invite Chelsea to exploit the space that we would inevitably leave - that would be stupid - but I do think that there's no reason why we can't start the game in the same manner that we did against Leicester.

Chelsea are top for a reason, though, and we cannot afford to miss the kind of chances that we failed to put away when we played Swansea on Saturday. If we get three shots on goal, we better make sure that two of them end up in the back of the net or things could become difficult.

Whatever the result, I hope that it is a special day for Bradley - his courage, bravery and ability to wear a smile as wide as the River Wear despite his internal pain and suffering is truly inspirational and a stark reminder to us all to treasure every moment that we spend on this planet with our loved ones.

If nothing else I hope that the players can give this special young man an early Christmas present and, in turn, some very happy memories that we all, as members of the Sunderland community, will cherish for many years to come.

Team News

David Moyes confirmed today in his press conference that Sunderland have no new injury issues following Saturday's game at Swansea, but he will be without the suspended Dider Ndong - he misses out having collected five yellow cards so far this season.

Lynden Gooch, Duncan Watmore, Lee Cattermole and Paddy McNair all remain long-term absentees, whilst Jack Rodwell is still a few weeks off from returning to the squad.

Due to the manner of the defeat at the weekend, plus the fact that this is our second of three games inside seven days, it's fair to say that we can expect at least some changes to the team. The 4-4-2 experiment just didn't work in South Wales and perhaps David Moyes might be tempted into giving Fabio Borini his first start since returning back to the squad after his groin injury.

Predicted XI: Pickford, PVA, Djilobodji, Kone, Jones, Denayer, Kirchhoff, Larsson, Anichebe, Defoe, Borini.

Manager's Crack

Speaking to the press this afternoon at the Academy of Light, Moyes acknowledged the quality that Chelsea possess but didn't rule out the possibility of Sunderland taking something from the game.

He said:

We were on a good run and we wanted to keep it going. It wasn't to be. We're now back at home and we'll try to pick points up.

I don't think anyone has won the Premier League playing three at the back for a full season. At the moment it looks as if they could.

A couple of players will miss the game so numbers are tight, but we've had that in recent weeks and picked up results.

People will try and find a way of beating Chelsea's system, but it's not just the system - they have real quality players.

He also took some time to talk about Bradley Lowery, and said that the youngster spent time at the club's training facility with the players on Monday.

He continued:

Bradley came to the training ground yesterday and we had a great time with him. He enjoyed having the boxing gloves on! He's a strong boy let me tell you, and we'll try to make it a special day for him.