Chelsea midfielder Ramires (R) celebrates with teammate Branislav Ivanovic after scoring against Crystal Palace in the English Premier League, December 14. Reuters
Sunderland will look to put their English Premier League relegation worries behind them, while Chelsea and Jose Mourinho will be keen on taking another important step towards a trophy when the two sides meet in the Capital One Cup quarterfinals at the Stadium of Light on Tuesday night.
The two sides faced each other earlier this month in the Premier League, with Chelsea just about running out winners 4-3 in an enthralling encounter.
Mourinho will not want too many heart-stopping moments in Tuesday's game, and will target a serene passage against Gus Poyet's men. The Chelsea manager will also rotate his squad, with one eye already on Monday's top-of-the-table encounter against Arsenal, who do not play this week.
"Now is an important period for all of the squad -- everyone has a role to play and a contribution to give," Mourinho said. "Every player will be important when we have so many games and competitions to play.
"To play a game in the same week you play the second against the first [in the Premier League] is a strange week, especially because Arsenal is not having this game. I can guess that they are having a couple of days off. I can guess they are going to prepare the game calmly, tactically very well prepared.
"We have to travel, we have to play, we have to come back. But it's the quarter-final. When you are in the quarter-final, you smell the final. It's not very, very far. We are going to try."
Poyet has been given the unenviable job of plotting a path off the bottom of the Premier League table, and while the manager is still doing his best towards that goal, a change of scenery in the mould of a cup tie might just be the tonic needed for his Sunderland players to find that winning feeling yet again.
"It's a different challenge for us -- the cup games are totally different," Poyet told Sunderland's official website. "I think it's [given a boost] in the past - we won against Southampton and then went on to beat Manchester City.
"Maybe it could be something similar. At the end of the day I like to go with the next game as the most important one. Right now, that is Chelsea. We're in a cup competition and one step from the semifinals.
While Mourinho has some of his focus on Arsenal already, Poyet will also be thinking a little about the next Premier League game at the weekend -- a big one against Norwich.
"I am trying to focus - it's not easy because of the situation we are in -- but I am really trying to concentrate only on Chelsea, so I am not watching Norwich, I am not reading any news about Norwich," he said. "It's all about Chelsea now. I am sure as soon as the game is finished, it's going to come into my head, Norwich, Norwich, Norwich. But for now, I don't want even to think about it."
Key men: Sunderland: Jozy Altidore will look to give the Chelsea defence a torrid time with his power and pace. Poyet will also take a couple of goals, if possible, from his striker. If Steven Fletcher plays, he will look to do the same, although there are a lot more goals in the Scot.
Chelsea: Andre Schurrle is expected to be given a run-out from the beginning and the German international will want to impress to seal a place in the Premier League starting XI.
Where to Watch Live
The game is scheduled for a 1.15 am IST start on early Wednesday morning with live coverage on Ten HD and Ten Action in India. Unfortunately, there is no official live streaming option available in the country. Viewers in the U.K., however, can live stream the match HERE. To catch all the action live online in the U.S., click HERE. Viewers in the Middle East and North Africa can watch the match via live streaming HERE. Latin America viewers, click HERE.
Expected lineups: Sunderland: Mannone; Dossena, Cabral, Roberge, Bardsley; Ki, Cattermole; Larsson, Giaccherini, Borini; Altidore.
Chelsea: Schwarzer; Azpilicueta, Luiz, Cahill, Cole; Mikel, Lampard; De Bruyne, Willian, Schurrle; Ba.
Prediction: 2-1 to Chelsea
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