Chelsea v Sunderland

The less said about the international break the better. Suffice to say that we should all be thankful Peter Kenyon failed in his mission to bring Sven-Goran Eriksson to Stamford Bridge.

On paper the players’ return to Premiership action looks like being a relatively easy affair. Sunderland are currently bottom of the table with zero points, having made their worst ever start to a Premiership campaign. If they fail to win this afternoon it will take their winless run in top flight football to 25 games. They are as high as 20/1 with bookmakers to defeat us.

As usual, Jose Mourinho isn’t underestimating the opposition: “Sunderland are better than zero points. I saw the matches, I analysed,” he said in the pre-match press conference.

“The players saw they are not a team for zero points. They played at Liverpool and were very comfortable.

“They will come here and play compact, try to counter-attack. It will not be easy for us.”

Team news is that we have a small number of injury worries. Captain John Terry is unlikely to feature after missing both England’s World Cup qualifying games with a knee injury picked up against Spurs. It was initially thought he’d be out for at least four weeks, but he’s already back in light training and should be available for Tuesday’s opening Champions League fixture against Anderlecht. Ricardo Carvalho will likely replace Terry at the heart of defence.

Petr Cech injured a shoulder whilst playing for the Czech Republic and is a doubt. With a keeper of Cudicini’s calibre as backup, Mourinho is unlikely to risk Cech at this early stage of the season.

Glen Johnson was sent home from the England U-21 squad with a thigh strain and will miss the match as well.

Despite much being made of Frank Lampard’s indifferent start to the season Mourinho has made it clear he’ll not rest last year’s Football Writers’ Player of the Year. He said: “My view on Frank is that he is a very important player for me and he plays against Sunderland. I prefer Frank not playing 100 per cent to another player who is at his top level.” Quite right too, especially considering how close he is to the record for continuous Premiership appearances.

My guess at the starting eleven: Cudicini; Ferreira, Ricardo Carvalho, Gallas, Del Horno; Makelele, Essien, Lampard; J. Cole, Drogba, Robben.

It is almost impossible to conceive anything but a win for The Blues. Our slow start — maximum points, no goals conceded, top of the table — to the season is sure to end in a flurry of impressive victories soon, and my money’s on this game being the first. 4-0 with at least one Lampard goal.

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Team news · Update

I couldn’t have been more wrong:

1 Petr Cech; 14 Geremi, 13 William Gallas, 26 John Terry, 3 Asier Del Horno; 22 Eidur Gudjohnsen, 5 Michael Essien, 8 Frank Lampard; 24 Shaun Wright-Phillips, 9 Hernan Crespo, 16 Arjen Robben.

Subs: 23 Carlo Cudicini, 29 Robert Huth, 6 Ricardo Carvalho, 15 Didier Drogba.

Chelsea 2 – 0 Sunderland · Match Reports

Five games, five wins, fifteen points, no goals conceded and top of the table. Nice.

See Geremi and Drogba’s goals here (downloadable zip files).

BBC Sport; Sky Sports; Official Chelsea FC Website; ESPNSoccernet, The Observer; Sunday Telegraph; Independent on Sunday; Sunday Times; The Independent; The Times.

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