With very different—yet very important—tasks at hand in the Premier League, both Sunderland and Chelsea will get a necessary respite from league play on Tuesday with a quarter-final matchup in the Capital One Cup.
Since beating the Black Cats 4-3 at the Stadium of Light two weeks ago, Jose Mourinho's squad have been on a bit of a roller-coaster ride—losing to Stoke City and grabbing three points at home against Crystal Palace in nerve-racking fashion.
Nevertheless, despite the inconsistent play, the Blues sit third in the table just two points behind Arsenal.
Meanwhile, Sunderland, rooted to the bottom of the table with a meagre nine points through 16 matches, are facing a much different kind of pressure in the form of potential relegation.
As such, Tuesday's rematch at the Stadium Light in the League Cup will serve as a welcomed break for each side.
Where: Stadium Of Light, Sunderland, England, United Kingdom
When: Wednesday, Dec. 17, at 2:45 p.m. ET (7:45 p.m. GMT)
Top Storyline: Who's Going to Play?
It's as simple as that.
In early December, Chelsea won this same matchup with a thrilling 4-3 triumph behind a spectacular brace from Eden Hazard, but not only will the Belgian superstar likely watch from the sideline, much of the starting XI will look different.
Mourinho talked about some of the anticipated changes, via Sky Sports:
'Azpilicueta can go on the right, Ashley Cole on the left, with David Luiz as a central defender.
If Cahill recovers, I will play him, if he does not recover, then I will go again with John, but I would like to John a rest for that match.'
That could leave opportunities for young players like Kevin De Bruyne and Andre Schurrle to make an impact.
On the other side of the pitch, Gus Poyet will likely continue to search for his best-possible starting XI, as he feels a victory over Chelsea—no matter the setting—could rid his team of its current losing mentality. From the Mirror:
'Suddenly when you are winning games you all become winners. That's why it is so important in the next game. It is an opportunity to start winning games. You have to take that opportunity,' Poyet said.
'Let's hope we can beat Chelsea and we will be very, very confident for Norwich. We have been creating chances. On the day we have just lacked a few qualities.'
With so many outside factors at play it will be compelling—and important—to see who lines up on each side.
Prediction: Sunderland 1, Chelsea 3
Mourinho may end up resting several of his usual starters with a chance to climb to the top of the EPL table by Christmas, but don't think for a second his team won't be motivated. The Special One has won this tournament in the past, stresses taking home as much hardware as possible and will have his squad ready.
Even if Hazard isn't there to make life miserable again for Poyet's squad, the Blues have enough depth and talent to advance to the semis.