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Chelsea V Sunderland at Stamford Bridge : Match Preview

18 Apr 2014 15:31:00

Chelsea V Sunderland at Stamford Bridge : Match Preview

Chelsea V Sunderland - view commentary, squad, and statistics of the game live.


Hazard missing for Blues

Eden Hazard will miss Chelsea's Barclays Premier League clash with Sunderland at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.


The Belgium playmaker also remains a doubt for Chelsea's Champions League semi-final first leg trip to Atletico Madrid.


Jose Mourinho has a clean bill of health for the rest of his squad for the visit of the Black Cats.


"Eden Hazard won't be fit for tomorrow, but everyone else trained today, so we're not in bad shape," said assistant Steve Holland.


"I wouldn't say he is definitely out at this stage, but the fact that he hasn't yet trained with the group would suggest he still remains a doubt."


Mourinho's vast experience of launching successful trophy bids on multiple fronts could prove crucial as Chelsea chase both Premier League and Champions League crowns.


"Experience is always vital in any competition and we have a good blend in our squad," said Holland.


"We have many players that haven't been in this situation before, but also a good group that have.


"We also have a very experienced manager who has been in this situation before, and it's good to have that experience at this stage.


"We've got the circumstances we have: this is a club used to playing a lot of matches at this stage of the season.


"Last season we got to the final of the Europa League which was 15 extra matches, the year before we had 13 for the Champions League.


"We're in a situation we've been in in before.


"It's a really challenging period emotionally; you've got to have experienced it to appreciate what it takes out of the players.


"That makes the challenge more difficult, but it's the way it is, it's something we've done before, we've got a good squad and we've got to do it again."


Gus Poyet has challenged Sunderland striker Connor Wickham to prove he is a Barclays Premier League striker and give his side renewed hope of survival.


The 21-year-old fired the Black Cats to within minutes of a remarkable victory at title-chasing Manchester City on Wednesday evening until keeper Vito Mannone's late error robbed them of two points and the England Under-21 international of the headlines.


However, he will run out at Chelsea on Saturday evening for an equally difficult mission as the man in possession with Steven Fletcher injured and Fabio Borini, Jozy Altidore and Ignacio Scocco having slipped behind him in the pecking order.


Wickham, an B#8.1million signing from Ipswich in June 2011, has had to remain patient and has been sent out on loan twice earlier this season, and head coach Poyet has urged him to make the most of his chance now that it has arrived.


He said: "For a player to come together at a very early age with that price-tag on his shoulders, everything needs to be good, and the most important part is that the team is performing well and has got the time to play and get used to him.


"It's a process, so who knows? Maybe the best thing for Connor is that the team is playing in the relegation battle and he is part of it.


"Maybe if we were playing for something else or Fletch was fit and scoring goals, maybe he wouldn't be playing. Sometimes, you have to take advantage of any situation."


The point with which Sunderland returned from the Etihad was welcome, but it still left them six shy of safety with just five games to play.


The chances of them reducing that gap further this weekend look remote with Chelsea unbeaten in the league at Stamford Bridge under manager Jose Mourinho in 77 attempts.


However having come so close to upsetting the odds in Manchester this week, Poyet will travel south looking for a similarly Herculean effort which would make he and his players hugely popular on Merseyside as leaders Liverpool hope for a Chelsea slip.


The Uruguayan said: "Who would have thought Sunderland are maybe going to decide the title one way or another? No-one, eh?


"We don't play for anyone apart from ourselves. It's going to be more of a shock if we beat Chelsea because they have never lost at home under Mourinho in the Barclays Premier League.


"If you think why Sunderland, people would ask why? We will see.


"The idea is to go and be brave, but not brave in terms of taking risks and being silly. The idea is to be brave playing the way we play, defending how we need to defend and trying to play our football and staying in the game all the time, any result for or against, staying in the game and being part of the game.


"It doesn't just depend on what Chelsea are going to do."



PA

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