Sunderland v Chelsea

Bottom versus top. One Premiership win versus nineteen. A fifty-two point gap. Despite this, Sunderland manager Mick McCarthy has been talking up his team’s chances.

“Somebody will beat them at sometime. Everyone can laugh and scoff but it might be us,” he said earlier in the week.

Bookmakers offer 16-1 against a Sunderland victory, the biggest-ever price for a Premiership home win. Sounds like McCarthy’s on.

Jose Mourinho has named Lassana Diarra in the squad after the Frenchman put in a man-of-the-match performance in the FA Cup win over Huddersfield. Carlton Cole is also included and replaces Didier Drogba who’s at the African Cup of Nations with the Ivory Coast.

It’s a big month for Carlton Cole. Didier Drogba’s absence means he’s the main back-up to Hernan Crespo. Hopefully he’ll prove to us all that he’s got what it takes.

New loan signing Maniche is rumoured to still be lacking match fitness, while Joe Cole has recovered from being ‘beaten up’ at a party earlier in the week.

Michael Essien, who wasn’t selected in Ghana’s African Cup of Nations squad this week, is still out with ankle ligament damage sustained in the win over West Ham. The good news is that he’s reported to be back in light training.

Frank Lampard, John Terry, Petr Cech, Claude Makelele and William Gallas all return.

Prediction: It’s not necessary to highlight the gulf between the two teams with statistics. Suffice it to say that anything less than three points is almost unimaginable. A club record tenth League win in a row it is then. 0-2.

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Sunderland 1 – 2 Chelsea · Update

See columnists Grocer Jack and Jonathan Dyer’s thoughts on the game here and here.

See Crespo and Robben’s goals here (downloadable zip files).

Match reports: BBC Sport; Sky Sports; ESPNSoccernet; Sporting Life; Official Chelsea FC Website; The Guardian; The Independent; The Times; Daily Telegraph.

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