Sunderland v Chelsea, Premier League, February 1, 2011
Back in mid-November Sunderland produced one of the performances of the Premier League season, winning 3-0 at Stamford Bridge (and Nedum Onuoha scored one of the goals of the season)Â to set in motion a poor run of results for league champions Chelsea. Intriguingly, Steve Bruceâ€™s side were without Darren Bent when they saw off the Blues and this is first game at the Stadium of Light since the departure of the now Aston Villa striker.
Chelsea meanwhile revert back to Premier League duty on the back of a poor performance at Everton where only a fine goal from Salomon Kalou ensured they remain in the competition they also won last May. The major news surrounding Carlo Ancelottiâ€™s side is the ongoing transfer speculation that Fernando Torres could be a Chelsea player at the end of the January transfer window.
Regardless of who El Nino is playing for when the transfer window closes, Sunderland will really fancy their chances of an upset on Tuesday night and they look well priced to win plenty of punters some money.
Besides their surprise FA Cup exit at the hands of Notts County, Sunderland have won all their games in 2011 and are only four points behind Chelsea, albeit having played a game more. They also have the benefit of extra days rest, having not played for 10 days whilst Chelsea laboured in a draining cup tie at Goodison Park.
Last time out Sunderland rebounded from the loss of Darren Bent, with a 2-1 win at Blackpool, courtesy of a Kieron Richardson brace and they could well have the personnel now to stifle the big teams and surprise them on the break. Asamoah Gyan is as good as any playing the lone striker role and recent additions Sulley Muntari and Stephane Sessegnon add power and pace to an already impressive midfield.
The reports that Chelsea have put in big money moves for both David Luiz and Fernando Torres during the January transfer window suggests all is not well for the Blues. Recent results have suggested an improvement, thanks to wins over Ipswich, Blackburn and then Bolton, but they can no longer afford slip-ups if they want to reclaim their title. And there are even suggestions they may struggle to finish in the top four.
On the plus side Didier Drogba is showing that he has recovered from Malaria, Ramires is beginning to adapt to the Premier League and Petr Cech is having an almost flawless season. However, John Terry was yet again suspect at Everton for the goal on Saturday and generally there is a lackadaisical approach from Chelsea that could be a result of their success last season or that their squad is just a bit too old.
Chelsea have won their last five visits to Sunderland and have also smashed 12 goals past the Mackems in the two home games prior to this season. But, Sunderland are as strong as they have been in recent times and the likes of Jordan Henderson epitomise a side full of strong up-and-coming players that can live with the best.
101gg predicts: Sunderland 1 â€“ Chelsea 0