Our footy scribe previews the EPL matchup between relegation-threatened Sunderland and log-leaders Chelsea.
David Moyes was given a harsh reminder about the vagaries of the Premier League last weekend - as if he needed one. Having won three in four matches - I resoundingly backed them to defeat lowly Swansea last weekend. And they only went and got wiped 3-0. It was a painful reminder of where they are at and it sent them back to the foot of the table.
On the absolute opposite end of the spectrum, Chelsea kept yet another clean sheet and won their ninth consecutive match against West Brom. Though it never captured the imagination in quite the same manner of some of their recent triumphs, it showed the Blue’s capacity to win in a multitude of fashions.
English Premier League | Wednesday 14 December | Stadium of Light | 21:45
To Win (90 Mins)
Sunderland 7/1 | Draw 17/4 | Chelsea 7/20
Sunderland’s recent run of decent performances was brought down to earth by a dismal display against Swansea. They once again showed their inability to contain pace as Modou Barrow and Jefferson Montero tormented them relentlessly.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Moyes decides to bring Jan Kirchhoff into the side to add extra cover in front of his back four. He has periodically performed the job well for the Black Cats and lord knows that they are going to need some extra assurances given Chelsea’s swift counterattacking capabilities.
Clearly the presence of Jermaine Defoe is one ray of light for Sunderland. You would think that with his burst of pace and tactical awareness, he may be able to momentarily split that obstinate wall of three that Chelsea possess.
However, there are simply too many deficiencies in this team at present. They don’t possess the pace in midfield to track the likes of N'golo Kante and Nemanja Matic incessantly, while Billy Jones could be in for a real working over by Eden Hazard down that right-hand side.
Going for their tenth consecutive win is one thing, having conceded only two goals in that time is another. Chelsea found it hard to break down a resolute West Brom side and ultimately it was down to the virtuosity and tenacity of top scorer Diego Costa.
Hazard probably had his poorest game thus far and will relish this far more undisciplined Sunderland line-up. Furthermore, I think that Antonio Conte may see this as an opportunity to refresh his side. Pedro was anonymous while Willian made an impact off the bench for the second consecutive match.
The Brazilian suffered a major personal setback with the death of his mother earlier this year, which prompted the club to send him back to Brazil. Pedro came in and has held a vice-like grip on his position.
But the Brazilian looked terrific and scored a fabulous breakaway goal against City last week. He may come into the side to just spice up the line-up after what was a fairly listless display. This Sunderland side doesn’t possess the discipline of West Brom and will find it hard to contain a side chasing history.
Verdict: Chelsea Win (7/20)
Chelsea are too pragmatic to just go out overtly cavalier, so I hesitate at backing them to win Halftime/Fulltime. But surely they have to come out on top here. There’s just no other result.
Written by Damien Kayat @Hollywoodbets