Chelsea will be seeking a 10th consecutive Premier League victory when they make the long trip to rock bottom Sunderland tomorrow evening. Antonio Conte’s side have surged up the table in recent months to become the bookmakers’ favourites for the title and are odds on to overturn the struggling Black Cats at the Stadium of Light. Resolute in defence and expansive in attack, the Blues are the form side in the top-flight. Meanwhile, pressure has been mounting on David Moyes, who was appointed Sunderland boss in the summer but has yet to convince the supporters that he is the right man to lead the club to safety. It has been a familiar story of toil for them.
These two clubs could not be on more different trajectories. Chelsea have conceded only three goals in their nine successive wins – a run that stretches back to October 1 – with a tactical switch to three centre-backs paying huge dividends for Conte. Striker Diego Costa is on fire and currently tops the goalscoring charts, while Eden Hazard has recaptured his best form after dipping from his usual high standards last season. In stark contrast, Sunderland are rooted to the foot of the table following a disappointing 3-0 defeat to fellow strugglers Swansea at the weekend, which ended a more positive sequence of three wins in their previous four games. They have accrued only 11 points from 15 matches.
Duncan Watmore has joined Paddy McNair in becoming the second Sunderland player to be ruled out for the rest of the season with a knee ligament injury. As usual, Moyes will be heavily reliant on Jermain Defoe, who has scored eight of their Premier League goals this season, to carry their attacking threat. Fabio Borini is returning to full fitness and was selected on the bench against Swansea, but Didier N’Dong, the club’s record summer signing, is serving a one-match suspension. Chelsea meanwhile have no such problems and Conte could well name an unchanged side, with David Luiz, Gary Cahill and Cesar Azpilicueta continuing as the miserly defensive trio.
Sunderland predicted starting XI Chelsea predicted starting XI
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On paper, this looks to be a complete mismatch. It would take a brave person to bet against Chelsea recording another victory in a fixture that pits the division’s meanest defence against the lowest scorers. Embattled Sunderland and their fans would no doubt settle for a draw and view it as a point gained in their quest for survival, whereas anything other than three points for the visitors would be a setback to their title aspirations. Away win
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