Chelsea can maintain their six-point advantage at the top of the Premier League table with victory away to Sunderland on Saturday (17:30 GMT, live on Sky Sports).
Sunderland have not enjoyed a particularly inspiring start to the campaign and come into Saturday’s match on the back of a 0-0 draw away to Leicester City. They are 14th in the Premier League table, with 13 points from two wins, seven draws and three defeats.
Gus Poyet’s (pictured) side dominated possession away to Leicester but created very few high-calibre chances. Steven Fletcher had their best opportunity of the match but saw his close-range effort well-saved by Kasper Schmeichel. Leicester also struggled to make attacking inroads and a draw was probably a fair result in a match that lacked quality in the final third.
It was Sunderland’s third 0-0 draw of the campaign and the sixth occasion on which they have failed to score. Fabio Borini was one of only two of their players to score more than four league goals last season and has clearly been missed since returning to Liverpool. Fletcher has a decent haul of four in the current campaign, but no one else is contributing.
Poyet did well to keep Sunderland in the division last season, but there has been little sign of progression this time around. The short-passing style he espouses gives greater priority to territorial control than the creation of chances. Sunderland take the sixth lowest average number of shots per match in the division and also average less shots than they give up.
Poyet will definitely be without the injured Patrick Van Aanholt (shoulder). Emanuele Giaccherini (ankle) and Billy Jones (hamstring) are expected to return to the squad after spells on the sidelines.
Chelsea have made an unbeaten start to the season in all competitions and travel to the Stadium of Light on the back of a 5-0 thrashing of Schalke on Tuesday. They lead the Premier League table, with 32 points from 10 wins and two draws.
The Blues recorded a comfortable victory at home to West Bromwich Albion last weekend. Goals from Diego Costa and Eden Hazard saw them establish a two-goal lead inside the opening 25 minutes and they were untroubled thereafter against an away side who were reduced to 10 men five minutes later. It was Chelsea’s sixth consecutive home league win.
Jose Mourinho’s side were again in commanding form in midweek, making light work of their German hosts thanks to three first-half goals and another two in the final quarter hour of play. Cesc Fabregas pulled the strings in midfield, Costa bullied the home defence into submission, while the slick dribbling of Hazard and Willian created numerous opportunities.
The Blues were also solid in defence, with Nemanja Matic continuing his excellent early-season form by providing a strong shield in front of their well-organised back four. Chelsea have not been quite as secure as they were last season, but they have still conceded well under one goal per match on average in league and Champions League play.
Mourinho has no major injuries concerns ahead of the trip up north, with just youngster Nathan Ake (hamstring) currently out of action.
Sunderland v Chelsea Betting Tips
Chelsea were 4-3 victors in a superb end-to-end encounter in last season’s equivalent fixture. Sunderland did, however, win the reverse at Stamford Bridge and also recorded an extra-time victory over the Blues in the Capital One Cup. Chelsea do, though, have an excellent record at the Stadium of Light, having won there in each of their last nine league visits.
For Sunderland, this match marks the beginning of a run of consecutive fixtures against last season’s top three. They did, though, perform well against stronger sides last season, taking four points from Manchester City and three from Chelsea. With less emphasis on taking the initiative, they were able to prosper with a solid defensive shape and quick breaks.
This year’s Chelsea side is, however, very different to the one that Sunderland defeated 2-1 at Stamford Bridge in April. They are still strong in defence, but the purchases of Costa and Fabregas have also added extra firepower to a side that were at times a little blunt when it really mattered last season.
The Blues are a strong side with few weaknesses and should be comfortable victors against a relatively poor Sunderland side.
- Back Chelsea -1.5 on an Asian Handicap @ best odds of 6/5 with Unibet or otherwise 22/19 with BetVictor.
- Costa did not get himself on the scoresheet in midweek but was again highly impressive as a strong and mobile focal point for Chelsea’s attacks. He has scored 11 times in 10 Premier League appearances so far this season and can be fancied to add at least one more goal to that tally in this match. Back Diego Costa to score at anytime @ 5/6 with Ladbrokes or William Hill.