OK, this high-profile return fixture with Chelsea is a really huge game and Steve Bruce, as quoted on SAFC.com, wants the fans to show up in great numbers at the Stadium of Light on Tuesday. But when you are in the top 6 of the best league in the world, every game is huge. And as we have come to understand as the season has progressed, there are no easy games in the Premiership this year. The bar has been raised significantly as each team made really good preparations for this campaign, and now, with all due respect to Wigan, clubs near the bottom have made some excellent signings to avoid the ultimate horror of relegation. Currently there is a www.bottom3 with Wigan, Wolves and West Ham featuring, but the 18th club is just 10 points behind Liverpool in 7th spot, but that will surely change.
The Black Cats fans will be looking down the table with a feeling of vertigo. In previous seasons we have greeted the 40 points mark with some relief, but this year that milestone, which could be reached against the Blues, seems irrelevant...a measure of the stunning progress of the club this season.
Two things surprise me about Chelsea at the moment. First, that Ancellotti is still in charge, given the number of top managers the club have turned into “failures” in recent years. Maybe the revolving door needs oiling, but I am pleased that they appear to be backing the Italian, who seems an honest and honourable guy. Secondly, that they have not blooded more of their younger players in the cut and thrust of the Premiership, they have been on such a bad run, so what have they had to lose? Josh MacEachran came on as a late sub in the 4-0 demolition of Bolton, who have now slipped into the bottom half. And Chelsea are again apparently opening the chequebook, rather than developing their own young players, who tend to be used as makeweights in transfer deals.
Soccernet reports that Liverpool have turned down a bid for Torres from Chelsea, that Atletico Madrid chief Miguel Angel Gil claims the Spanish club have rejected a £52 million bid for Sergio Aguero and Diego Godin, and that the Blues are in negotiation for David Luiz. So clearly the defence and attack are being targeted for improvement.
On October 11 this blog suggested: There is a long way to go and the Chelsea squad, dare I say it, despite their obvious quality, looks a bit thin, especially at the back, ahead of the inevitably difficult winter pitch conditions. They had a preseason midfield clear-out anyway involving Ballack and Cole; now Benayoun is sidelined for a long period, and Lampard and Alex are on the injury list, with the squad not getting any younger. That was before Sunderland tore them to shreds at Stamford Bridge, and the Londoners will want revenge. But enough about Chelsea...
Sunderland will look to stay within touching distance of the top 5, and a haul of 2 wins come Tuesday and the following Saturday against Stoke at the Britannia Stadium will underline our European credentials, and pull us into the top 4 or 5 on merit. It is tough at the top, these are demanding fixtures, but if we can welcome back tough-tackling Cattermole as our holding midfielder, and if “fringe-player“ Ferdinand can perform again in a solid defence, then why not? Gyan, if supported by the midfield, can definitely provide the goals we need, as he did in both of the corresponding away fixtures. The imminent signing of treble-winner Muntari from Inter Milan will at the very least boost the morale of the squad. Watch this space…
©Lars J.S. Knutsen
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