Sunderland – Chelsea (Capital One Cup)
Stadium of Light, December 17th, Sunderland host Chelsea for the Capital One quarter-finals. Yet another balancing-act between the desire to win a trophy and not jeopardize the main goal of the season. Face to face two sides in two different moments in their lives. Sunderland is fighting to stay afloat and Chelsea has, next Monday, the opportunity to beat Arsenal at the top of the Premier League table. How will this League Cup fixture fit in their bigger pictures?
The Black Cats are at the bottom of the Premier League table with 9 points gathered in 16 matches. Gus Poyet felt encouraged by the side’s performance at Upton Park but all they could get out of it was a goalless draw. Beating Chelsea at home and progressing in the Capital One Cup could certainly give Sunderland the boost they so desperately need to break with failures. They almost did it early this month so why can’t they try again?
Carlos Cuellar (hip) and Keiren Westwood (shoulder) will be on the sidelines. It’s still unclear if Jack Colback made a full recovery from the illness that kept him out of the last fixture.
Probable line-up: Mannone – Celustka, Brown, O’Shea, Dossena – Ki, Cattermole – Giaccherini, Larsson, Johnson – Fletcher.
Chelsea are 3rd with 33 points, 2 below their leader Arsenal. A circumstance the Blues expect to correct at the Emirates next Monday. Last Saturday at Stanford Bridge Pallace made them work hard for the three points but Fernando Torres and Ramires secured the win. José Mourinho is bound to make some changes in the starting XI when he visits the Black Cats on Tuesday. Rotation is the word of the month for the English squads, those who can afford it anyway. He must allow some of the stars of the team some rest so they can be at their best when the time for Arsenal comes. Monday is just around the corner and the Gunners have no mid-week action. Everything else comes second to the tittle battle, except maybe the Champions League.
Ramires most of all deserves a night off even if his form and stamina seem unshakable. But no matter what the Portuguese says he has his eyes on the third League Cup and he loves to win. Mark Schwarzer is likely to start in goal, Frank Lampard will provide the leading voice and experience, Shurrle, Mata and Ba, will benefit from more minutes in the pitch. In Ivanovic’s absence Azpilicueta will probably move to right-back and Ashley Cole occupy the opposite side.
Marco van Ginkel and Ryan Bertrand are long-term casualties. Gary Cahill is the only fresh fitness problem and should remain out for this game. Ivanovic is suspended following his fifth booking of the season.
Probable line-up: Schwarzer – Azpilicueta, David Luíz, Terry, Cole – Lampard, Mikel – Schurrle, Mata, William – Demba Ba.
Chelsea defeated Sunderland the last six times they went head-to-head and that puts the odds in their favour. That been said, this will be the second time in a month the Blues visits the Stadium of Light and two weeks ago the game ended 3-4 for the the Londoners. But were not for Phil Bardsley own goal at the 84th minute and the it would be a different story all together. It was that close. Mourinho knows it. He will be hoping for a similar result without the last minute drama and suffering. But we don’t always get what we want, do we José?