Rafael Benitez takes Chelsea to the Stadium of Light, hoping some of the fortune from the 6-1 Stamford Bridge defeat of FC Nordsjaelland, in a midweek Champions League fixture, can spur a misfiring Blues to a first league win under the Spaniard. Sunderland, meanwhile, are just about staying out of the relegation zone and the Black Cats will know they need to start winning, soon.
Where to Watch Live
Kick-off is set for 3 pm GMT. Live commentary will be available on BBC Radio 5 Live. Watch highlights of the game on Match of the Day on BBC One and BBC One HD at 10.30 pm GMT.
Martin O'Neill's side have lost three of the last five games. The only consolation for the Black Cats is the one win in the last five - at Craven Cottage - was their first away win of the season. O'Neill will have his sights set firmly on the Blues and he will be aware he faces a Chelsea team that, the 6-1 midweek win aside, is in some disarray... probably the best time to try and pull of a shock win. A win against the European champions (at least until the new winners are crowned) would be an ideal platform to boost a flagging season.
There is another reason why Sunderland will want a strong performance against Chelsea. The side faces a daunting fixture list in December, with games against Premier League leaders Manchester United and defending champions Manchester City scheduled to be played. And a poor performance or a big defeat in this game could make it very hard to motivate the squad for the games against the Manchester clubs.
Sunderland come into this game on the back of a 2-1 defeat at Carrow Road and the club are teetering on the edge of the relegation zone, with 13 points from 14 games. Only one point separates them from the Saints but, fortunately for them, Sunderland have a game in hand.
Meanwhile, Chelsea started the season rather strongly, with seven wins in their first eight league matches. The impressive run included wins over Arsenal and Tottenham, both away from home. however, it all seemed to unravel after the 2-1 defeat at Donetsk, in a Champions League group stage match.
Since then, apart from some brief flashes (the 5-4 Capital One Cup win over United at Stamford Bridge, for example), the Blues have been singularly lacklustre. The 3-0 defeat to Juventus in the Champions League, which virtually ended any hope of qualification to the knock-out stages, resulted in Roberto Di Matteo's sacking and interim manager Benitez has struggled to come to grips with the club and the fans.
Chelsea have not won a league game since the eight round of matches - the win at White Hart Lane - and that is a shocking statistic. Since then, the Blues have drawn four and lost three of seven games.
- Last Five (all competitions, most recent first): L D L W L
- Last Result: Norwich City 2 - 1 Sunderland
- Last Five (all competitions, most recent first): W L D D L
- Last Result: Chelsea 6 - 1 FC Nordsjaelland
Sunderland should be able to start striker Steven Fletcher. The Scot was withdrawn with an ankle injury in the defeat at Carrow Road but is expected to be cleared to play this game. Aside from that, former United defenders Wes Brown and John O'Shea are among those on the injury list, with Lee Cattermole also unavailable. Of these three, O'Shea may recover in time to make it to the bench but is almost certainly unlikely to be a starter.
Probable Line-Up: Mignolet; Bardsley, Kilgallon, Cueller, Rose; Gardner, McClean, Johnson, Larsson; Sessegnon; Wickham
Chelsea are still without veterans Frank Lampard and John Terry and Sturridge as well, meaning £50m Spanish signing Fernando Torres will continue to start. His two goals in the midweek win, although in an ultimately pointless game... or at least that is what Benitez will be hoping.
The only other absence for the London club is Nigerian midfielder John Obi Mikel, who starts a three match suspension for his row with referee Mark Clattenburg.
Probable Line-Up: Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Luiz, Cole; Ramires, Romeu; Mata, Oscar, Hazard; Torres