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Premier League preview: Sunderland v Chelsea
Created on 06 Dec., 2012 3:29 PM GMT
Despised Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez still has plenty of work to do to get Blues fans on side, ahead of Saturday's trip to Sunderland.
Benitez oversaw his first win in charge at Stamford Bridge in mid-week as Chelsea dismantled Danish club Nordsjaelland 6-1 in the Champions League, despite the result being rendered consolation as the European champions' title defence ended at the group stages.
The ex-Liverpool mentor has been hit hard by jeers from the home fans, after owner Roman Abramovich appointed him their interim boss - and he is yet to earn a Premier League win in three games.
And such poor league form is looking detrimental to Chelsea's title aspirations, as they have slipped 10 points behind leaders Manchester United.
Fortunately for Benitez, Sunderland are hovering just above the relegation zone in 17th place, with their measly two league wins this season both coming against 10 men.
The biggest problem for Martin O'Neill's men is finding the back of the net, as they have scored 13 goals in 14 matches - and front man Steven Fletcher (six goals) will miss the Blues' visit to an ankle injury.
Conversely, Chelsea are set to see the likes of veterans Frank Lampard (calf) and John Terry (knee) return to the matchday squad, along with attacker Daniel Sturridge (hamstring), giving Benitez several options off the bench.
He will no doubt stick with his same formation of Fernando Torres up front, especially after the Spaniard struck a brace in the Champions League in mid-week.
Joining Fletcher on the sidelines will be Wes Brown (knee), Lee Cattermole (knee) and John O'Shea (calf), making life even tougher for the hosts at the Stadium of Light.
Chelsea will also be backing their ability in the North-East, as they have won their past seven on Wearside, scoring 17 goals in that run.