Who: Chelsea FC vs. Sunderland FC
What: English Premier League Matchweek 32
Where: Stamford Bridge, London, England, UK
When: Sunday, April 7, 2013
Weather: The Weather Channel
Time: 15:00 GMT/10:00 a.m. ET/7:00 a.m. PT
Television: Fox Soccer Plus, FOX Soccer 2Go (USA)
Worldwide Live Streams and TV Channels: LiveSoccerTV.com
Radio: SiriusXM (SiriusXM channel 94) Internet channel 94, TalkSport Radio (US), BBC Radio 5 Live (UK)
Referee: Neil Swarbrick
3-Way Odds: Chelsea -400, Sunderland +850, Draw +350
Total: Over 2½ -140, Under 2½ +120
Decimal Odds: Chelsea 1.25, Sunderland 9.50, Draw 4.50
Decimal Total: Over 2½ 1.67, Under 2½ 2.20
Fractional Odds: Chelsea 1/4, Sunderland 17/2, Draw 7/2
Fractional Total: Over 2½ 67/100, Under 2½ 6/5
Source: Bovada (Kahnawake, Canada)
Chelsea will be looking for nothing less than a win and three points in this home fixture on Sunday against Sunderland, who will likely be happy just to earn a draw and a point, as it lives dangerously near the border of Relegation Street heading into the last weeks of the season.
The 16th-place Black Cats (7-10-14) enter this weekend's action just one point ahead of both 17th-place Wigan Athletic and 18th-place Aston Villa (31-30-30) and the dreaded relegation zone in the English Premier League.
Sunderland sacked manager Martin O'Neill and brought in Paolo Di Canio to see if the 44-year-old Italian could save the day at the Stadium of Light. The Black Cats will look to do everything possible to try to stay up with a new manager and an injured roster.
The club's leading scorer in the Premier League, Steven Fletcher (11 goals), is one of those Sunderland players out for the season, as are Wes Brown and Lee Cattermole. Meanwhile, David Vaughn (groin) and Carlos Cuéllar (ankle) are both also expected to miss Sunday's clash with the defending FA Cup champions.
The Blacks Cats will look to goalkeeper Simon Mignolet (nine clean sheets) and midfielder Adam Johnson (four goals, team-leading five assists) for leadership, but Sunderland is somewhat anemic on offense, with the fourth-least number of goals in the top flight (33) and only one player with more than two assists in league play (Johnson).
Although fourth-place Chelsea (16-7-7) will be playing its fourth match in nine days, the European champions are fairly deep and should be more than healthy enough to handle the task at hand against Sunderland, who have lost their last three away from the Stadium of Light.
When these two met at the Stadium of Light in December, Chelsea rolled to a 3-1 win, as Fernando Torres scored twice for the Blues. Torres, who now leads the club in scoring in all competitions with 19 goals, will likely start this match against Sunderland on the bench as Chelsea's other striker, Demba Ba, is cup-tied in the Europa League and will undoubtedly get the call for the Blues in this one.
The Blues do have some injury woes of their own heading into the match, with defenders Ashley Cole and Gary Cahill both out at least two more weeks and midfielder Oriol Romeu out for the season. So expect César Azpilicueta, Branislav Ivanović, John Terry, Ryan Bertrand, David Luiz and even Paulo Ferreira to be worked heavily over the next fortnight.
After going with Yossi Benayoun and Victor Moses in his starting XI in Thursday's first leg—a 3-1 win over Rubin Kazan in West London—expect Chelsea interim manager Rafael Benítez to start the Juan Mata-Eden Hazard-Oscar "Mazacar" line in the advanced midfield, with John Obi Mikel and either Ramires or Frank Lampard in the central midfield.
This game will be the Blues' third straight at home, and Chelsea has gone 4-1-1 (outscoring their opponents 12-6) overs its last six in all competitions as it fights for a top-four finish in the Premier League, a Europa League championship and a repeat of its FA Cup win last year.
Chelsea enters the weekend just two points behind third-place Tottenham-Hotspur in the standings (57-55) and two ahead of fifth-place Arsenal (53), but the Blues will still have a game in hand over Spurs (31-32) after this weekend due to a rescheduled game at Fulham (April 17) due to FA Cup participation.
Between that game and this one against Sunderland, Chelsea has dates in Moscow and across London Town, as it plays Rubin Kazan on Thursday in the second leg of their Europa League quarterfinals (Fox Soccer Channel, 12:00 p.m. ET/9:00 a.m. PT) and then dance with defending EPL champions Manchester City at London's Wembley Stadium in the FA Cup semifinals in a week on Sunday, April 14.
Will Chelsea end with a Top 4 finish in the EPL?
But first things first here, and that's a confident and rested Blues squad finding a way to get the three points in a game it has to in a place it should and against an opponent it must defeat.
Chelsea has absolutely dominated this series of late, going 9-0-1 over their last 10 against the Black Cats and have won 15 of the last 16 meetings, outscoring Sunderland by a robust 44-13 in the process.
The Blues should find a way to win this one, and with goalkeeper Petr Čech continuing to lead the way and making at least one memorable save per game lately, it seems it's pretty much business as usual over at Stamford Bridge, no matter what the latest headlines scream.
PREDICTION: Chelsea 2, Sunderland 1
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