Thursday, 18 May 2017

Chelsea vs Sunderland Match Preview (21/05/17): Another Day of Celebration at the Bridge

Monday night served up the perfect opportunity for all inside Stamford Bridge to celebrate the wonderful achievements of Antonio Conte, his staff and of course the players. It was an evening of pure theatre….and the game with Watford wholly lived up to the billing.

With Conte serenaded by the crowd within minutes of the game starting, the carnival atmosphere lent itself to a lively game rather than a borefest. And with the Italian boss deciding to rest a number of players with one eye on next week’s FA Cup final, it was little surprise that the match panned out with excellence and mediocrity in equal measure.

It was John Terry who opened the scoring for the Blues, and what a fitting swansong that was for the legendary defender. Okay, so he mucked up a couple of minutes later to allow Etienne Capoue equalise for the Hornets, but the roar that greeted Terry’s goal was as loud as you will hear anywhere.

Cesar Azpilicueta, one of only three Chelsea regulars to start the game alongside N’Golo Kante and Eden Hazard, restored the advantage heading into half time before the game burst into life in the second period – goals from Michy Batshuayi for the Blues and Daryl Janmaat for Watford setting up a grandstand finish.

Stefano Okaka drew the Hornets level with 15 minutes to play, and you would have been forgiven for thinking that would be it as far as the scoring was concerned. But as has been Chelsea’s way this season, they found a way of winning the match: substitute Cesc Fabregas firing home in the 88th minute to secure yet another home victory for his side.

So Conte’s target of 30 wins is still achievable….standing in his way are relegated Sunderland. The Black Cats should not rain on our parade given that they have won just one of their last thirteen and failed to score in 12/15. Chelsea will end the Premier League campaign in perfect fashion here, won’t they?

Chelsea Team News

After making nine changes to his starting eleven for the game with Watford, trying to second guess Conte’s team selection here is a tough old business!

You would imagine that he would want to give game time to those who will feature in the FA Cup final next week, and so a number of first team regulars will presumably return to the starting eleven. Perhaps Monday night’s team selection intimated that the likes of Azpilicueta, Hazard and maybe even Kante will be rested against Sunderland on Sunday.

There are no fresh injury concerns, so really it is up to Conte as to how he wants to shuffle his pack. We’ve published a possible line-up below, but knowing the Italian we could end up looking very silly come Sunday afternoon!

Chelsea vs Sunderland Head to Head

Like most other Premier League sides, the head-to-head stats for Chelsea against Sunderland can be split into two categories: pre-Abramovich and post-Abramovich money.

Before the oligarch pumped his considerable load into Chelsea’s coffers, the head-to-head record with Sunderland was a mixed bag, but since he took over things have gone routinely in the Blues’ favour. Since the turn of the Millennium the boys lost their first two games against the Black Cats, but since then the stats read W20 D1 L4 in the Londoners’ favour.

Sunderland actually won at the Bridge in 2014 you might recall, but that is their sole success in their last five trips here.

How the Match Will Be Won

Making any accurate analysis of how this match will pan out is difficult without knowing how Conte intends to set his side up.

After all, we predicted that a first-choice Chelsea eleven would roll over Watford without so much as a second thought. What actually panned out was that a disjointed Blues side – understandable given the number of changes – struggled to see off a game but low quality Watford outfit.

That familiarity was abundantly clear defensively in particular, so to suggest that Chelsea will run through this hapless Sunderland outfit would be churlish.

But on the face of it, the Black Cats really shouldn’t serve up any problems. Their only win since the start of February came against Hull (no offence), and failure to score in twelve of their last fifteen games of the campaign tells its own story.

Furthermore, their record this season against the top six teams in the Premier League reads W0 D2 L9, so there is little for their supporters to get excited about ahead of the trip south.

What will the final game of the season at Stamford Bridge bring? There will be emotion and tears as John Terry says his final goodbye, but the overriding sensation will be one of joy and celebration as we reflect on an outstanding campaign. Let’s hope the boys can round it off with victory.

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