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Preview: Chelsea v Sunderland

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Our much-needed winter break is finally over. Mostly healed, both mentally and physically, after a nearly two-week layoff -- thanks to the postponement of Chelsea's visit to Hull City -- things pick back up with a Premier League home date against Sunderland.

Confidence is high. Or it should be after that 5-0 dismantling of Watford in the FA Cup which somewhat served to eradicate that unimpressive run of results we compiled to close out the decade. Is Mourinho's vintage 4-3-3 the answer? Perhaps.

chelsea-sunderland1
Unibrow. Still MIA.

Whether Carlo Ancelotti will continue with a front three, or return to his precious diamond is unknown. Or is it?

"Cech, Ivanovic right-back, Terry, Ashley Cole, Ballack, Belletti, Lampard, Anelka. I think Joe Cole, Malouda, Anelka," said Ancelotti today in a press conference, doing his best to mock the Special One. He forgot to add the Sunderland XI, though. Color me disappointed.

Wait. So our XI looks like this, eh?
Cech
Bane-EBJT-Cashley
Ballack-Belletti-Lampard-Anelka
J. Cole-Anelka-Malouda

Nico is going to be putting in a shift. Or Carlo is still undecided on that whole Ricky v. Alex thing. I'm voting for the later.

Statistics you need to know:

  • A win would be Chelsea's 350th in the Premier League. Only Manchester United and Arsenal have accomplished the feat.
  • The Blues have won their last 10 meetings with Sunderland, having failed to score twice or more only once during that streak.
  • Sunderland has not scored at Stamford Bridge in nine years (4-2 win, March 2001).
  • Sunderland has won only once in its last 21 away league matches.

Prediction:

The statistics paint a pretty grim picture for Sunderland supporters. I'm not really buying it. Steve Bruce is a player's manager, and this side, despite underperforming in many eyes, is likely to challenge for, at the very least, and top-1o place. Disciplined, tough, that's how I view the Black Cats. Lee Cattermole is a gem, a rough one to be fair.

The scoreline earlier in the season, 3-1 at the Stadium of Light, was certainly deceiving. It took a breathtaking second-half display to erase what was a opening 40 minutes in which we were, for the most part, second best. The Bridge offers comfort, though, and with the club's recent lull seemingly in the rearview, I expect nothing less than three points.

2-0 to the Blues.