Chelsea vs. Sunderland: Team News & Preview & Paolo Di Canio

Darth Di Canio is coming for your soul - Ian MacNicol

There's en elephant in the room; is it a fascist elephant? Does it matter? Do we care? You will not find answers to these within, there's football to be played. I think.

My local community is in a brand new development, a master-planned residential district of single- and double-story houses in the suburb of the suburbs next to the pastures of mooing happy cows. We call it a neighborhood, just like, presumably, the people in Thousand Oaks, CA would call it a neighborhood. They wouldn't call it a neighbourhood because that would be silly for Americans to do. And California is in America, last time I checked.

Wait, let me check again. Yep, still the good ol' US-and-A.

Jesse Rutherford's band is from Thousand Oaks, CA. It's called 'The Neighbourhood'. The extra 'u' gives it instant hipster cred. As does all the consciously monochromatic band art and the fact that they don't seem to have an entry in Wikipedia. They're my flavor of the week.

I've listened to their entire catalog - seven songs across two EPs - over and over and over and over, exclusively, all week. I literally did not listen to any other music - not on the radio, not in the car, not at work. Just this. Over and over and over and over. And I will continue to do so until full saturation and exhaustion. They're my Paolo Di Canio. The flavor of the week.

Or flavour, if you will.

The levels of Di Canio have reached full saturation in the football media. Only one question remains, why hasn't this been called Paolo-gate yet? Or Di-Canio-gate. Or let's-kick-fascism-out-of-football-whatever-that-may-mean-gate. Or the John-Terry-has-dropped-to-number-2-on-the-list-of-The-World's-Worst-Human-Beings-gate. Or do-we-even-care-that-Sunderland-has-some-football-yet-to-play-this-season-as-they-try-to-avoid-relegation...gate. Sadly, we'll move on before any of those catchy names stick.

Let's hope the football that - I think - we're about to witness isn't reminiscent of the clowncar that was the Italian elections earlier this year. And despite that semi-political comment, just a friendly reminder that this is a football blog, not a politics blog. I may care about you as a commenter and community member, but I really, really don't care about your politics. So let's talk a bit about football.

Date/Time: Sunday, April 7, 15:00 BST; 10:00 A.M. EST; 7:30 P.M. IST

Venue: Stamford Bridge, SW6

TV Information: none (UK); none (USA); ESPN (India)

Online: FoxSoccer2Go; ChelseaTV Radio; TalkSport Radio; BBC Radio 5 Live

It's like they're trying to make us NOT watch this match!

Chelsea: Well ... playing well. I think. Back-to-back home victories after that horrendous defeat in Southampton is a good thing. Even better thing: Chelsea have won eight of their last nine and are undefeated in the last ten in all competitions at Stamford Bridge (since the 0-2 defeat by Branislav Ivanovic Swansea City if you must ask). Must be all that poisonous atmosphere, right?

Unfortunately, things are not quite so rosy in the league, mainly thanks to the club's recent struggles away from home. Actually, I'm not even sure the term "struggle" encompasses the meaning of one away point form twelve. I guess we'll worry about that later.

For now, Chelsea are home and face a must win situation. Since West Bromwich Albion failed to take advantage of a hilarious haphazard Arsenal on Saturday (thanks for nothing, Steve Clarke & Romelu Lukaku), the Blues find themselves languishing in just fifth place. Fifth place is not fourth, and fourth is the required minimum. Must. Win.

Chelsea could actually go third with a win and a Tottenham loss, but at this point we still don't have to rely on the other contenders losing. The team controls its destiny. Let's make it happen. This is not the time to go against the trend of 15 wins in the last 16 match-ups versus Sunderland.

Ashley Cole* and Gary Cahill are still out, as is Oriol Romeu. The rest of the squad however should be good to go and with both forwards actually firing this week (BAtman & Zorres!), this may not even be a bad thing.

* Ryan Bertrand is set for his 50th Chelsea appearance. Quietly now, but he's an "academy product."

Sunderland: Paolo Di Canio. Paolo Di Canio. Paolo Di Canio. Paolo Di Canio. Paolo Di Canio. Paolo Di Canio. Paolo Di Canio. Paolo Di Canio. Paolo Di Canio. Paolo Di Canio. Paolo Di Canio. Paolo Di Canio. Paolo Di Canio. Paolo Di Canio. If you haven't heard (and you failed to read the first part of this preview), Paolo Di Canio is the new Sunderland manager.

He replaced Martin O'Neill who had failed to maintain the promise of the early part of his Black Cats era, when they won seven of ten and were contending for European places. In fact, since winning his seventh match in charge of Sunderland in February of 2012, O'Neill went on to win just nine more league matches in total, including exactly seven this season. Not surprisingly, Sunderland are just point from the drop zone, barely hanging on as Wigan Athletic threaten to go on one of their patented last-gasp survival runs. Coincidentally, Sunderland's last Premier League win came away to Wigan although that was nine matches ago.

So, the obvious moral of the story is that Sunderland's quite bad. Leading scorer Steven Fletcher's out, which doesn't help, while Fletcher's replacement Danny Graham has zero goals in his seven Sunderland appearances, which also doesn't help. Lee Cattermole is also out, which probably doesn't help, although it does mean that Juan Mata & Co. do not have to wear triple shin pads and seventeen ankle braces. Which helps. Sunderland's casualty list also includes defenders Carlos Cuellar and Wes Brown, but I don't think this matters much at all.

In conclusion, Paolo Di Canio. Also, football. One of those two will dominate the headlines.

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