Stadium of Light

Sunderland v Chelsea Preview

by Stuart Vose

We look ahead to Saturday's action on Wearside.

Martin O’Neill’s Sunderland welcome Chelsea to the Stadium of Light this weekend (Saturday, 3pm) looking for some home comforts to help drive them up the Barclays Premier League table.

The Black Cats went down narrowly at Norwich last time out, losing 2-1 despite dominating the second half and creating numerous chances.

Now O’Neill’s men return to Wearside looking for a second home league win of the season as a tough pre-Christmas schedule gathers pace.

Saturday’s game is the second of seven December fixtures and the first of four home outings during the month.

They face a Chelsea side currently in a state of flux following the departure of former manager Roberto Di Matteo.

The Champions League winner was let go and replaced by Rafa Benitez, who saw his side run out 6-1 winners against Norsjaelland in midweek.

However, the landslide victory wasn’t enough for the Blues to qualify for the knockout stage as they exited the competition.

Chelsea are on a seven-match winless run but Benitez will be hoping the half-dozen goals bagged in midweek will give his side a timely boost.

His counterpart, O’Neill, will be looking for his side to give their own campaign a shot in the arm with a first home win over Chelsea since October 2000, when a lone Kevin Phillips goal sealed a 1-0 victory.

The London side have won 14 out of the last 15 meetings between the teams, with a 3-0 Sunderland win at Stamford Bridge in November 2010 proving the exception.

But O’Neill will be taking little heed of past stats - or indeed Chelsea’s recent results.

Saturday’s visitors started the season like a train and are looking to return to that form under Benitez.

While goals aren’t guaranteed, they’re likely – there hasn’t been a 0-0 draw between the clubs since 2001.

The game will see former Sunderland favourite Bolo Zenden return to the Stadium of Light in his new capacity as Chelsea’s assistant manager.

Zenden took up an offer to assist Benitez, who was his boss during a spell at Liverpool.

The likeable Dutch international spent almost two seasons at the Stadium of Light and will be guaranteed a warm reception back on Wearside.

Overall, Saturday's game is the 115th between the two sides with Chelsea winning 54 times, Sunderland 39 and a further 21 games ending in a draw.

Opta Facts

Louis Saha has scored more goals against Chelsea than against any other opponent in his Premier League career (7).

There have been five goals scored in the 87th minute or later in the last five games between the Blues and the Black Cats.

Chelsea have won five of their last 19 Premier League away games.

Rafa Benitez’s last match as a manager at the Stadium of Light saw Sunderland score v Liverpool via a deflection off a beach ball that had been thrown onto the pitch.