Chelsea vs. Sunderland Preview
Stamford Bridge/May 21, 2017
First and foremost, let me use this medium to apologise for not being able to finish the preview of the Watford game on time for it to make it up on the site ahead of the match that marked our 29th victory of this campaign. With that out of the way, let’s get to the matter of the Premier League season finale at home to Sunderland on Sunday, after which the trophy presentation takes center stage. Victory against the Teesiders on Sunday will be our 30th victory of this season which would be a Premier League record of wins in a 38-game season. Sunderland were also the visitors to Stamford Bridge on the last day of the 2014/15 season, our last title winning season, and if events of that day is anything to go by this might be a pretty straight forward victory for us. More than half of Sunderland’s goals this season have been scored by, the fast ageing but still very effective, Jermaine Defoe (15 of 28) with the second highest scorers having just 3 goals apiece. Keep Defoe quiet and you will be on the way to keeping the whole Sunderland team quiet. No team has scored the opening goal of a match more times than our 30 and we have dropped points in just 4 of those (with draws against Swansea, Liverpool, Burnley and that freak result against Palace) Antonio Conte surely has instilled a winning mentality in this current team but that will be put to the test next season when Champions’ League returns to Stamford Bridge. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if we were to repeat this feat next season especially if we’re able to hold on to our star players as well as adding quality where necessary.
As expected prior to kick off Monday, Antonio Conte rang in the changes for the visit of the Hornets with Nathaniel Chalobah, Nathan Ake, Michy Batshuayi and Kennedy among those to get valuable game time under their belts. It was a shame that RLC was missing due to an unspecified injury. Having missed the previous two games due to his own muscular injury, N’Golo Kante returned to the starting line-up and what a game he had as well. It was good for Stamford Bridge to witness John Terry add to his 66 goals for Chelsea with the opening goal on Monday. What will make my day on Sunday will be to see Terry start on Sunday and substituted midway into the first half a la Didier Drogba on the final day of the 2014/2015 season. However, I'm hoping to see a semblance of the team to take to the field against Arsenal at Wembley at the end of the month start against Sunderland on Sunday to keep them match fit for the Wembley showdown.
Last 5 Matches: WWWWW
Sunderland’s long courtship with relegation for the past few seasons finally caught up with them with their demotion being confirmed a few weeks ago. They couldn’t give their fans a parting gift after losing their final game at the Stadium of Light to Swansea, but they sure gave Arsenal a run for their money at the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday night keeping them at bay until after the 70th minute. At the end they ended up losing by two goals to nil. Sunderland’s two wins in this calendar year came away from the Stadium of Light but Chelsea’s total point haul at Stamford Bridge could rise to 51points garnered from a possible 57(second only to Spurs’ 53points). The standout performer for the Teesiders this season has been the young goalkeeper, Jordan Pickford, who has attracted the attention a wide range of Premier League clubs but I expect David Moyes would want to keep him for the campaign in the Championship next season if they intend to return to the Premier League. The fact that the Sunderland ‘Keeper was voted as the man of the match even in a losing cause only lays credence to how important he is to their quest for promotion. Moyes may be tempted to go with the same team that did so well against Arsenal on Tuesday as well as keep faith with the 4-4-2 formation he used against the Gunners with both Defoe and Borini leading the line seeing that we conceded three in our last match even though it was a second string eleven.
Injuries: Duncan Watmore (ACL) – Out; Paddy McNair (ACL) – Out; Victor Anichebe (Hamstring) –Out; George Honeyman (Back) – Out; Jan Kirchhoff (Knee) – Out; Steven Pienaar (Calf) – Slight Doubt
Last 5 Matches: LLWLL
3 Matchups to Watch
- Fabregas vs. Didier Ndong: It was a little bit of a surprise that Fabregas didn’t start the Watford game considering he isn’t one of the ‘starting 11’ but then one can understand Antonio Conte’s reason for not naming in the starting line-up. Against the tough-tackling Ndong however, he’s sure to have his hands full in this match.
- Moses vs. Brian Oviedo: Victor Moses will certainly fancy his chances against the former Evertonian who’s more of a runner but is technically gifted. The Spaniard is also one of the better crosser of the ball in the league but I trust Moses to keep pace with him throughout the game.
- Alonso vs. Seb Larsson: For some weird reason Seb Larsson hasn’t played as much football in this struggling Sunderland team as he’d have liked but David Moyes seems to have reverted to type by bringing back the Swede into the team. Like Oviedo, Larsson also relies more on the quality of his deliveries rather than his pace or anything else hence Alonso will have to pay close attention to this set-piece specialist.
This might be a dead rubber game for Sunderland but the Blues have something riding on it. Having equalled the record of wins in a 38-game season with that victory over Watford, set by Mourinho in the 04/05 season and matched in the 05/06, Antonio Conte is going all out for the outright lead and set a new Premier League record of 30 wins from 38 games and what an achievement that would be considering he lost 5 of the remaining 8 games. The atmosphere at Stamford Bridge is sure to be electrifying again. Personally I hope JT gets a run out for the last time at Stamford Bridge but I don’t think he will mind that much if he isn’t picked as long as his last official assignment is lifting his fifth Premier League title. KTBFFH, Blues!