Feels just like yesterday that Jose Mourinho walked out onto the Stamford Bridge pitch just a few minutes before we kicked off against Hull City, doesn't it? And now Chelsea have just six, possibly seven matches left in the season. Seven matches to make this the greatest Chelsea season ever. Who would've thought that possible just a few weeks ago?
The path to greatest-ness begins at Stamford Bridge, with the easiest of remaining fixtures. At least on paper. But we saw on Wednesday that paper sometimes is worth less than a Chelsea striker with a wide open goal to hit. Sunderland were a Vito Mannone howler away from becoming just the second Premier League team to win at the Etihad this season.
And it's not like Chelsea are personally unfamiliar with getting shocked by Sunderland. Our League Cup campaign ended at the feet of Gus Poyet's men, with Fabio Borini and Ki Sung-yueng grabbing goals two minutes from time in regulation and extra time, respectively. A couple weeks prior, we needed an Eden Hazard masterclass to edge a three-goal outburst from them. And of course who can forget one of the darkest days in recent Stamford Bridge history: a home loss, 0-3, to the Black Cats who, in fairness, were a solidly mid-table side in 2010-11 rather than one that's all but confirmed their relegation in 2013-14.
Still, despite the massive result on Wednesday, Sunderland have been on a terrible run over the last two months. They haven't won a game since a February FA Cup victory over Southampton, while their last Premier League win came on February 1st in a 3-0 Tyne-Wear Derby demolishing of Newcastle United. They are winless in their last ten, losing eight. Chelsea need to make that winless in eleven, losing nine.
Date/Time: Saturday, April 19, 2014, 17:30 BST; 12:30pm EDT; 10pm IST
Venue: Stamford Bridge, SW6
Forecast: A nice, sunny, decent spring day in Londontown.
On TV: Sky Sports 1 (UK); NBC (USA); Star Sports 4, HD 2 (India)
Online: Sky Go (UK); NBC Sports Live Extra (USA); Star Sports (India)
Chelsea team news: The Blues have been near the bottom of the injury charts all season and currently have the shortest injury list in the Premier League with just one name on it: Eden Hazard. Then again, Hazard is often worth more than one player.
Though we only have two full days to rest, recover, and fly to Madrid, I don't expect Mourinho to chop and change much. He's likely to continue doing what's gotten us this far: play the in-form players, play the tried and true combinations. The back four picks itself, as does Nemanja Matic. I expect Mohamed Salah to continue his run in the side, with Samuel Eto'o getting the nod in the home friendly confines where all eleven of his goals have come this season.
View from the enemy: Roker Report
Sunderland team news: Ki Sung-yueng, Steven Fletcher, Kieran Westwood, and Carlos Cuéllar are all injured. Casino-man Phil Bardsley is suspended, while ex-Chelsea Liam Bridcutt - who missed the City match due to the birth of his first child - may miss this one as well.
Sunderland caused all sorts of problems for City with set pieces and through Adam Johnson (somewhat expected) and Connor Wickham (entirely unexpected). While this is a tie that Chelsea should easily win nine times out of ten, we will have to make entirely sure that this doesn't turn into that one exception.
Previously: Outside of the two shock defeats mentioned above, Chelsea have won 17 of the last 19 meetings between the two sides. This will be match #78 in Jose Mourinho's unbeaten streak at Stamford Bridge while Petr Cech will be looking for his 10th consecutive home clean sheet, which would match the records set in 1927 (over two seasons) and 2010 (in one season).