Demba Ba celebrates with Chelsea skipper John Terry after scoring against Southampton, December 1. Reuters
The first test of the "SSS" - Southampton, Sunderland and Stoke -- week was negotiated quite well by Chelsea, courtesy their win over the Saints.
Now the second of the "S" needs to be broken down when Sunderland host the Blues at the Stadium of Light on Wednesday.
Chelsea showed great resolve and maturity to come from a goal down, scored in just the 13th second of the game, to top Southampton 3-1 at Stamford Bridge on Sunday. For 45 minutes and more it looked like another frustrating evening for Jose Mourinho's men before Gary Cahill's equaliser ten minutes into the second half proved to be the catalyst to a commendable comeback against the side with the stingiest defence in the league.
"There is a lot of progress to be made," Mourinho, whose side are second, four points behind leaders Arsenal, said. "There are things in the job that are not easy, and one of those things is to make the pressure of fighting for the title become something natural, something the players accept in a positive way.
"Here we have some people that have won the title before but not for quite a long time, and when you don't win it for quite a long time you forget it. We have other people that have played in clubs that are not used to fighting for titles, it is just about doing fantastically today and not worrying about tomorrow or any big responsibilities.
"You have to learn how to live with the pressure of trying to be top of the league, how to fight until the last moment, knowing that every detail of every game can make a difference in the end. It's a process, not something you do with a click."
Now, it is onto another tricky tie - aren't they all in the Premier League this season -- at Sunderland, desperate for any kind of points to get themselves out of the relegation zone.
"Sunderland are better than the number of points they have," Mourinho added. "The quality of the players is not comparable with some teams that are in that part of the table.
"I don't think they can play in a defensive way where they just try to get a point. They have a positive approach because they need to win matches."
Win matches is what Sunderland have failed to do this season, managing the maximum three points in just two of the 13 games. New manager Gus Poyet is looking to change that aspect while also inculcating a better style of play at the club. It has been far from easy, however, and maybe a win against Poyet's former side will act as a platform for better things in the future.
"On a good day anything can happen," Poyet said. "We have to remember that and see if we can do something special too.
"This is one of the fixtures I have been looking forward to, because it is Chelsea and I am looking to beat Chelsea if it's possible. The three points is the most important thing. It will feel quite special. I don't know if the Chelsea supporters will support me.
"It would be nice to get support from everyone on the pitch - the home and the away fans. It will be a great experience."
Team news: Skipper John O'Shea is expected to feature after returning to training following a knock suffered in the 0-0 draw against Aston Villa. "Surprisingly it was not what I thought it was, a muscle injury," Poyet told Sunderland's official website. It was a movement that he had not had before -- he was sure that it was not a massive injury but he didn't know what it was, so we needed to wait 24 hours. He has trained today [Tuesday] and everything was fine, touch wood. Let's hope John will be there tomorrow [Wednesday]."
Chelsea will be without Brazilian internationals Oscar and David Luiz, but Samuel Eto'o is expected to return after missing the Southampton win. Marco Van Ginkel remains a long-term absentee.
"Eto'o is back training with the team," Mourinho said. "I will have to see today [Tuesday] but he looks fine. There is a chance he can play tomorrow.
"Oscar is not in condition to play, but his injury is not a serious one. David Luiz is not training with the team, he is still with the medical department. Let's see for the weekend. I hope sooner or later I have David so I can rotate a little back at the back, like I can in other positions."
Ashley Cole might be called back into the starting XI after being overlooked in the last few games.
Key men: Sunderland: The home side's defence has tightened up considerably since the return of Wes Brown, with the former Manchester United defender forging a good partnership with skipper O'Shea. The centre-backs will no doubt be tested by Chelsea on Wednesday and how they stand up to the test will have a big bearing on the outcome of the match.
Chelsea: In Oscar's absence, Juan Mata might want to impress again and show Mourinho he should be one of the first names on the teamsheet.
Where to Watch Live
The game is scheduled for a 1.30 am IST start with no live coverage in India. You can, however, catch the game live streaming online by clicking HERE. To watch the match live in the U.S., click HERE. Viewers in the Middle East and North Africa can click HERE.
Expected lineups: Sunderland: Mannone; Bardsley, O'Shea, Brown, Dossena; Ki, Gardner; Larsson; Giaccherini, Borini; Fletcher.
Chelsea: Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry; Cole; Ramires, Lampard; Schurrle, Mata, Hazard; Torres.
Prediction: 2-0 to Chelsea
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