Conte: SAFC's form In The Last Five Has Them Fifth In The Form Table
It might not have felt like it watching Sunderland's shower of shenanigans in the rain at Swansea, but Antonio Conte is wary of the form of the side who returned to the bottom of the league on Saturday.
In his pre-match press conference, the Chelsea boss pointed to the last month in which David Moyes' team have picked up three wins in five games:
We all know that Sunderland are bottom of the table, but if you look at the last five games you can see that Sunderland are fifth in the table. They took nine points so it is important to pay great attention in the game, to be focused, and to concentrate from the start of the game to the end.
Tonight will be the Italian's first trip to the Stadium of Light, not that it will faze the drawling Conte. His side will arrive aiming for their tenth straight win to convince the watching world they are genuine title contenders and match the bookmaker's faith as Chelsea have been installed as favourites for the championship.
The Blues' boss, in a first season in the Premier League has impressed with the manner in which he has stamped his career-held style upon the Stamford Bridge billionaires; but he claims Chelsea will not take Sunderland lightly tonight:
I know this league, and this league is very tough - this is the first of five games in twenty-two days, I think we are ready to face that challenge.
Chelsea look unstoppable right now, though they will be without Edin Hazard tonight. The last time they visited the Stadium of Light, Sam Allardyce's Sunderland side were able to out-graft their London visitors. But it doesn't look like that alone will be sufficient to get us any points tonight.
Conte's side out-worked and out-fought the ultimate grafters last weekend as they overcame a resilient West Bromwich Albion.
The Italian has no fresh injury concerns for tonight and the hero of last season's stoppage-time dismissal, John Terry, might even make the squad.
Diego Costa, who has been on fire this season is just one booking away from suspension so David Moyes will no doubt have someone close to him with an instruction to rile the Spaniard somewhat.
The Local Pundit
Pat Nevin, who starred in a blue shirt for five years at Stamford Bridge, making nearly 200 appearances, has been pondering the resurgence of a Sunderland side who got thumped on Saturday. The Chelsea legend told the club's official website:
Sunderland have managed to scrape together nine points from the last fifteen available which is very good going for a team at the bottom of the league.
Nevin described Sunderland as a "Championship side at best" after we were thumped by Arsenal at the end of October. That was before this reasonable upswing in form which will look like a flash in the pan if we get nothing from the next two home games, but the former Blues winger has readjusted his appraisal of Sunderland somewhat:
It may well be that Davie Moyes finally has a handle on the capabilities of the squad, and without making them world beaters he is getting the best out of them now and again.
Sadly, it's the "now and again" that's the problem, Pat.