Sunderland manager David Moyes is so scared by the prospect of Premier League leaders Chelsea visiting the Stadium of Light he is refusing to confirm which are of his players will be available for the clash. The Blacks Cats are already without six first team players, including suspended midfielder Didier N'dong who picked up his fifth yellow card of the season at Swansea City, but Moyes has indicated further players have been struck down by injury.
The north-east club slipped to the bottom of the Premier League after a 3-0 defeat to Swansea at the weekend and now face the start of a tricky festive and new year period which includes matches against Manchester United and Liverpool. Long-term injury victims Jack Rodwell, Lee Cattermole, Paddy McNair, Lydon Gooch and Duncan Watmore will all miss the schedule with long-term fitness problems.
But Moyes is also set to be without members of the squad who featured against Swansea, after confirming that youngsters Joel Asoro, George Honeyman and Josh Maja will be involved in the 18 selected for the visit of Chelsea. The former Everton and United boss has refused however to identify the individuals who will miss out, instead preferring not to give Blues boss Antonio Conte any further help ahead of the game.
"There are a couple of injuries which I am keeping under wraps, and players who will not be involved," said Moyes, who withdrew Seb Larsson, Steven Pienaar and Ndong during the loss at the Liberty Stadium, according to the Northern Echo "The squad is going to be short, so a couple of young players will make the bench – Asoro, Honeyman and Maja will be in the squad.
"We have to try to get back on it and do well. We did not play as well on Saturday. I watched it again and was not happy with a lot of things we did in the game, so I have shown the players and told them, and they know what we need to do. We have to get back to winning games, but the difference is we are playing a top side, probably the most in form in the country. The points would prove that, so that brings its own difficulties, never mind our own team."
While Sunderland battle against relegation, Chelsea secured a ninth win in a row to return to the top of the Premier League after Diego Costa netted a late winner against West Bromwich Albion. The west Londoners are regarded by many as the favourites for the title and Moyes believes they possess all the credentials of potential champions.
"They definitely look capable of winning the league," he added. "He (Chelsea boss Conte) is doing well. They have a style of play at the moment that is something pretty new. Of course, we have all come up against three at the back – 3-5-2 or 3-4-3 - but we are now coming up against someone who has worked in his country for a long time as well with that system, and probably played in it as a player. He has come here and put it to them in a way he wants it to be done, and they will play this system now, it looks like for rest of season."