After Manchester City slipped up at home to Sunderland on Wednesday, Chelsea found new hope in their quest for the Premier League title.
The Black Cats now stand in the way of Jose Mourinho’s men, hoping to ruin yet another championship bid as they strive for survival at the other end of the table.
If Chelsea win all four of their remaining matches, then they will be the champions. It appears simple, but the task in front of the Blues is far from that.
Venue: Stamford Bridge
Date: Saturday, April 19
Time: 5:30 p.m. BST/12:30 p.m. ET
TV Info: Sky Sports 1/beIN Sports 9
Premier League Pendulum Swings Chelsea’s Way
Following Chelsea’s shock 1-0 defeat at Crystal Palace last month, Mourinho said that it would be impossible for his side to win the title, as BBC Sport reported:
“Now it's impossible to win the title. We depend too much on other results. When you depend a little it's possible, when you depend a lot I don't think it is possible.”
However, after Manchester City’s shock 2-2 midweek draw with Sunderland, the title is now in Chelsea’s hands, as the Premier League table shows:
Though Liverpool may currently occupy top spot, Chelsea can knock them from their perch with victory at Anfield on April 27, in a match that’s looking like a title decider.
However, to be in that situation, Chelsea must first find a way past Gus Poyet’s Black Cats, who need a miracle to keep their Premier League status.
Sunderland are six points adrift of Premier League safety with Saturday’s match and a trip to Old Trafford still to come, meaning that they’ll desperately need to take points from Stamford Bridge to stand any chance of avoiding the drop.
Poyet, formerly of Chelsea, said that he’d gladly swap his club’s situation for that of arch rivals Newcastle United, who are currently in the middle of a dip in form—per Sky Sports:
The most important part, which is the fans, they love it, they love football and they are desperate to do well. Go across the river and go to Newcastle - they are in an unbelievable situation in the table and there is a nightmare. Can we change over? Because that is a great problem to have, to be ninth?
Losing on Saturday will pose Poyet a real problem, which is why you’ll likely see his side going all out to record another shock result.
The Uruguayan started an attacking side at the Etihad in midweek, with Connor Wickham up front, and reaped his rewards with the England Under-21 star helping himself to a brace.
He’ll likely start the same side at Stamford Bridge, though Mourinho will have one eye on Tuesday’s Champions League semi-final away at Atletico Madrid and will field a weaker team.
Eden Hazard won’t be risked, while the in-form Demba Ba could start up front chasing his third goal in as many games after notching decisive strikes against Paris Saint-Germain and Swansea City, respectively.
While there will always be twists and turns in a title race, if you’d offered Mourinho the chance to be four wins away from the Premier League trophy at the start of the season he’d have taken it.
Whether or not the Portuguese manager can get himself another Premier League winners’ medal remains to be seen, but you can guarantee that every match will be treated like a cup final.
Key Stats and Prediction (statistics via WhoScored.com)
If Chelsea avoid defeat on Saturday, their unbeaten Premier League run at Stamford Bridge will have stretched to 27 matches.
Over their last six unbeaten matches, keeper Petr Cech hasn’t had to pick the ball out the back of his net once.
In their last nine home matches against Sunderland in all competitions, Chelsea have picked up eight wins.
Meanwhile, the Black Cats are winless in nine Premier League matches and have conceded at least two goals in their last five matches away from the Stadium of Light.
While Sunderland will undoubtedly put up a good fight, it’s hard to see them breaking down Chelsea and keeping their Premier League survival hopes alive.
With the talent that Mourinho has at his disposal, nothing but a routine home win is expected.
Prediction: Chelsea 3-0 Sunderland