Chelsea v Sunderland preview (Premier League) – 19th April 2014

Chelsea face Sunderland on Saturday evening knowing that a win would put them on top of the Premier League table.

The Blues are just two points off league leaders Liverpool, and with a meting with the Reds scheduled for the end of the month, a win here to keep them in the title race is needed. Liverpool are away to Norwich the following day, and even though the Canaries are desperate for points they can’t be relied upon to help Chelsea’s challenge.

Chelsea’s opponents on Saturday are also desperate for points, but the league’s bottom side don’t look to be much of a threat. They seem destined for the drop, a fate that their manager, former Blue Gus Poyet, accepted after their latest defeat.

Home form gives good omens for Chelsea, with a great defensive record at the Bridge of late. Indeed it is there numerous home wins which have kept them in the title hunt up to now, and another one here would put them top.

Of course, this isn’t the only big game Chelsea face. They travel to Madrid to face La Liga leaders Atletico in the Champions League on Tuesday night. Atleti may be having a great season, but Mourinho’s men will fancy their chances of getting to a second Champions League final in two years. The question is, can the squad handle two huge games in four days at this stage in the season?

There is likely to be a lot of squad rotation over those few days, with the recovering Eden Hazard unlikely to be risked. Chelsea’s back five will stay the same as it has done for months now, but there should be a few midfield changes. Nemanja Matic will keep his place in the team from last week’s win at Swansea, since he’s ineligible for Tuesday’s game.

We may see Frank Lampard join him, as Mourinho is likely to be planning on a Ramires and David Luiz partnership for Madrid to keep things tight. Mohammed Salah is likely to play as well, since he’s in the same situation as Matic.

Up front Samuel Eto’o will be pushing for a start, and we know Mourinho likes playing him in home games. Demba Ba will be hoping to hold on to his place, following his decisive goals at Swansea and at home to PSG and the former Newcastle man would surely relish the chance to push Sunderland closer to the drop.

With the Premier League title now within Chelsea’s reach an eighth straight home win is a must. A Premier League and Champions League double is far from impossible, but it will take two good results in two very difficult games this week to get close. With a backs-to-the-wall job likely on Tuesday, Chelsea need a straightforward win at home to basement boys Sunderland.

LCN Verdict: Chelsea to win 2-0