Who: Chelsea at Sunderland
What: English Premier League, Week 16
Where: Stadium of Light, Sunderland, England, UK
When: Saturday, December 8, 2012
Weather: The Weather Channel forecast
Time: 15:00 p.m. GMT/10:00 a.m. ET/7:00 a.m. PT
Television: ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPN Deportes (US)
Worldwide Live Streams and TV Channels: LiveSoccerTV.com
Radio: SiriusXM Satellite Radio channel 94 (Internet 94)
Referee: Mark Halsey
3-Way Odds: Chelsea -130, Sunderland +370, Draw +260
2-Way Odds: Chelsea -1 -110, Sunderland +1, -110
Total: Over 2½ +100, Under 2½ -120
Source: LVH SuperBook (Las Vegas, Nevada, USA)
Decimal Odds: Chelsea 1.70, Sunderland 4.75, Draw 3.70
Decimal Total: Over 2½ 1.85, Under 2½ 1.85
Fractional Odds: Chelsea 7/10, Sunderland 15/1, Draw 27/10
Fractional Total: Over 2½ 17/20, Under 2½ 17/20
Source: sportsbook.com (Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles)
Chelsea looks to end its run of seven straight league games without a win when it travels to the Stadium of Light to face Sunderland on Saturday.
It has been 17 years since the Blues have gone this long without a win in English Premier League play, and if the European champs can’t find a way to beat the 17th-place Black Cats in this one, then it could be a very long season at Stamford Bridge.
The good news for Chelsea is that it has been 12 years since it lost at Sunderland, and the Blues have gone 9-0-1 in their last 10 against the Black Cats, outscoring them 28-11 over that span and registering three clean sheets along the way.
Also working in the Blues favor is the fact that Sunderland’s leading scorer Steven Fletcher (six goals) is out with an ankle injury and will likely be replaced by England Under-21 international Connor Wickham.
Outside of Fletcher, the Black Cats have had little offensive firepower this season—they have scored just 13 goals—with Craig Gardner and Stephane Sessegnon tied for second on the team in scoring with two goals each.
Martin O’Neill’s squad has allowed just 18 goals in 14 games to date, thanks in large part to the goalkeeping of 24-year-old Belgian Simon Mignolet. However, offensively this club has been anemic and has scored a maximum of two goals just twice in those 14 league games.
And like teams which somehow always find a way to lose—Sunderland (2-7-5) has only two wins in its last 22 matches in the Premiership—the Black Cats didn’t win either of those games in which it scored twice (Swansea City, West Bromwich Albion).
Further proof of lack of scoring power can be seen in the five goals scored at home so far by Sunderland, tied with Queens Park Rangers for the lowest in the league. They have also been shut out four times at the Stadium of Light.
But misery loves company and third-place Chelsea (7-5-3, 25 goals for, 16 goals against) has been more than miserable lately not only scuffling in the EPL, but also in the UEFA Champions where they became the first holder not to qualify for the knockout stage Wednesday after Juventus defeated Shakhtar Donetsk to win the group.
Many teams across the continent would love to participate in the Europa League, but for a high-profile team like Chelsea with perennially high expectations, it seems like a bit of a letdown.
But the past is gone and there is nothing the Blues and new manager Rafael Benítez can do but look forward and try to make the most out of what they have in front of them.
For Benítez, the circus isn’t necessarily limited to West London as the last time he was in the Stadium of Light—as Liverpool manager—his team lost 1-0 on a bizarre goal by Darren Bent which deflected off of a beach ball thrown onto the pitch by a Reds fan.
Chelsea may have gained a little confidence in Wednesday 6-1 thrashing of FC Nordsjælland and Fernando Torres may have gained a bit of his own with two goals, but the real hidden benefit of the Blues ouster should be the fact that they won’t have the pressure of Europe’s biggest tournament on their shoulders anymore.
And with key players like captain John Terry, Frank Lampard and Daniel Sturridge to eventually return to the fray, Benítez will have a stronger roster with which to work as well as a squad motivated by their current slide.
Toss in a pretty favorable schedule over the next two months, and the potential of a couple big names to join the fold over the January transfer window and things may actually looking up a bit for Chelsea and its blue-blooded followers.
In this one the Blues should grab a first-half lead and never look back and pull within seven points by day’s end of league leaders Manchester United, who travel across town to play their “noisy neighbors” Manchester City on Sunday (Fox Soccer Channel, 8 a.m. ET/5 a.m. PT) in the weekend’s big game.
Chelsea, which flies to Japan for the Club World Cup straight after the match, should win this one easily with Petr Čech holding it down in the net and Juan Mata working his midfield magic, but nothing has come easy for the Blues these last six weeks.
And against this opponent and in this situation, the -130 price on the favorites on the three-way line looks very appetizing and a good way to start the weekend off with a winner.
BETS: Chelsea -130, Over 2½ +100
PREDICTION: Chelsea 3 Sunderland 1
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