Chelsea travel to the North-East for a midweek Premier League game against Sunderland. The Blues will be buoyed by their winning comeback against Southampton at Stamford Bridge this weekend which took them to second place in the league, four points behind leaders Arsenal.
Jose Mourinho made several changes to the side that had lost in Basel and was pleased with the resulting performance, as he told the official Chelsea website.
Step by step they are understanding my ideas and my mentality, feeling the responsibility, feeling that Chelsea cannot be completely out of the title race in December. They must feel the responsibility to play for Chelsea and that was a sign of maturity. They were losing after 10 seconds but kept calm. My team is one with a profile where I can't establish targets. I can't say I want to win five consecutive matches or be top of the league. I just want to work with them, feed the young players, feed the team and if we do that we are there.
Despite having told the press in his Friday conference that Ashley Cole would definitely start against the Saints, Cesar Azpilicueta retained his place at left-back. The man the fans call "Dave" put in another solid performance, giving Mourinho no reason to drop him from the lineup.
Gary Cahill and John Terry both got on the scoresheet on Sunday and remain the first-choice pairing at centre-half while David Luiz continues his recovery from a bruised patella. There is nothing to suggest that Branislav Ivanovic will be losing his place at right-back any time soon.
Michael Essien made a rare appearance against Southampton, where he made an error that led to the Saints' quick-fire goal. John Obi Mikel will likely replace him for the trip to Sunderland, with Frank Lampard and Ramires completing the midfield trio.
In the second half he gave us what we needed, I needed him to come inside and be a bit of a winger and come inside and connect with the attacking players, he did that well. We also needed him to control Luke Shaw because the kid goes forward, and he was also a big support to Ivanovic, so his performance was good.
With Oscar having left the Southampton game before halftime with a minor injury, Mata should retain his place in the starting XI, while Eden Hazard should start on the left of the attack.
Despite Demba Ba’s scoring super-sub performance on Sunday, Fernando Torres will keep his place in the starting XI against Sunderland. The Spaniard seems rejuvenated, and his connection with Mata will be key in the congested fixture list ahead.
Mourinho’s return to the 4-3-3 formation paid dividends at West Ham, and he would do well to try it again with this refreshed group of players at Sunderland.
Sunderland are just one point clear of the bottom of the table, having picked up just seven points from their last 10 games. However, three of those points were taken from Manchester City at the Stadium of Light, and after some of Chelsea’s recent away performances, Mourinho will start his best available XI to keep his title hopes alive.