The countdown continues with our fourth to last league game of the season. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton set their sights on the visitor of the Wearsiders…
Any kind of win on Saturday will return Chelsea to the top of the pile, overnight at least. The Blues have enjoyed this fixture in recent years, averaging more than three goals a game in our 12 Premier League meetings at Stamford Bridge.
But this time the morale of visitors Sunderland, desperate to evade the drop, is hard to predict. Their draw at Manchester City on Wednesday was thoroughly deserved and ended a run of five successive defeats, yet the crucial full three points were surrendered late-on by a self-inflicted wound.
Without a win since 1 February (though that was against neighbours Newcastle) the Black Cats have lost seven of the last eight league games and drawn the other. They have still only scored six times since hitting three against the Geordies and manager Gus Poyet has muttered darkly about deep-lying issues at the heart of the club.
He took them to a Capital One Cup final, defeating José Mourinho's Blues en route, but gallant failure against Manchester City at Wembley has provided no succour from the weekly reality of league shortcomings.
Former Blues icon Poyet, one of whose most memorable goals was a spectacular volley in this same match-up in 1999, had a fine reputation as a manager before arriving but had never managed at this level before.
A more experienced but less honest boss might not have sounded such a desolate tone after defeat last weekend but it is because he cares passionately, a trait he often displayed as a player at Stamford Bridge.
Even his ill-judged kissing of the Spurs badge during a win against Chelsea was solely directed at the man he felt had squeezed him out at the Bridge, however poorly it went down among Blues fans.
It is part of football lore that injured players return quicker to a successful team than a struggling one and Poyet declared only 17 first team players were fit enough to face City.
Incredibly his side put in one of their best performances of the season and, but for a moment of tin-hand paddling from goalkeeper Vito Mannone, would have become only the second team to win at City after Chelsea.
Despite being written off in the media the Citizens are still in the title race, though their manager suggesting the club was shattered by the recent loss at Liverpool does put their readiness for battle into question.
Easter football, meanwhile, is not the packed schedule it once was. Back in 1999 Keith Sinclair, vicar of Aston parish, ordered his church bells to ring out during Chelsea's Sunday morning visit to nearby Villa Park. It was 'symbolic mourning' of football's encroachment into Easter Sunday services on the holiest day in the Christian calendar.
Yet since medieval times the moveable feast of Easter had been the traditional time for mob football matches such as Workington's 'Uppies and Downies'. In the professional era an intense fixture list was organised to entertain crowds enjoying a rare long weekend off work. Falling so close to the decision-making end of the season as it usually does, the Easter schedule earned a make-or-break reputation.
During Chelsea's debut season, 1905/06, a remarkable league crowd record of 67,000 enjoyed the Good Friday sunshine and saw the Pensioners draw with Manchester United at Stamford Bridge.
Crucially the Red Devils remained above the Londoners in the promotion race and, after Jackie Robertson's men drew the following day at Grimsby and at home to Glossop three days later, Easter football had sealed Chelsea's fate.
This is still sometimes the case in the Football League: Championship sides, for instance, will play on Good Friday or Saturday and again on Easter Monday. With greater pressure from other competitions and concerns about recovery time, it is more rare for Premier League sides to undergo such a rigorous examinations.
Chelsea played twice over the last Easter holiday only because the FA Cup replay with Man United was scheduled for Monday 1 April. And if you like omens, Chelsea's hero last weekend at Swansea, Demba Ba, was also the only goalscorer in that win against the Mancunians.
At Easter 56 years ago, on 19 April 1957, Chelsea became the first club to fly domestically from a football match. The jet-set Pensioners had to be back from a match at Newcastle in time for Everton's visit to the capital the next day.
Sunderland will aim to become the first visitors in 10 to breach the Chelsea defence at Stamford Bridge. However, all five of the Blues' league defeats this season have come in games immediately prior to Champions League midweeks.
Chelsea are the last English side still competing in Europe and have been allowed the least preparation time of the four remaining sides. This game was brought forward to Saturday at 5.30pm by the Premier League from its previous TV slot of Sunday 4pm and is one of the fairest available given that Sunderland played on Wednesday.
However, our Champions League opponents Atletico play Eiche at home this weekend, the match being brought forward to Friday by La Liga to maximise their preparations for the first leg of Tuesday's semi-final.
The other Madrid side in the last four, Real, were also in action on Wednesday, beating Barcelona to lift the King's Cup. As a result Spanish football authorities have postponed their Primera match this weekend to give them a clear run to Wednesday's UEFA clash. Their opponents, Bayern, play on Saturday afternoon.
The race for the Premier League Golden Boot
Luis Suarez (Liverpool) 29
Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool) 20
Yaya Toure (Man City) 18
Sergio Aguero (Man City) 15
Jay Rodriguez (Southampton) 15
Wayne Rooney (Man Utd) 15
Eden Hazard 14
The race for the Premier League Golden Glove
Petr Cech 16
Tim Howard (Everton) 13
Wojciech Szczesny (Arsenal) 13
Hugo Lloris (Tottenham) 12
David De Gea (Man Utd) 11
|The Premier League run in|
|Sat 19 Apr||Sunderland (h)|
|Sun 20 Apr||Norwich (a)|
|Mon 21 Apr||West Brom (h)|
|Sun 27 Apr||Liverpool (a)||Chelsea (h)||C Palace (a)|
|Sat 3 May||Everton (a)|
|Sun 4 May||Norwich (h)|
|Mon 5 May||C Palace (a)|
|Wed 7 May||Aston Villa (h)|
|Sun 11 May||Cardiff (a)||Newcastle (h)||West Ham (h)|
Leaders Liverpool visit Norwich on Sunday; they have hit five in each of the last three encounters with Canaries. On Monday West Brom play away at Man City, whom they lost narrowly to in the reverse fixture.
Barclays Premier League fixtures
Tottenham v Fulham 12.45pm - BT Sport
Aston Villa v Southampton 3pm
Cardiff v Stoke 3pm
Newcastle v Swansea 3pm
West Ham v Crystal Palace 3pm
Chelsea v Sunderland 5.30pm - Sky Sports
Norwich v Liverpool 12pm - Sky Sports
Hull v Arsenal 2.05pm - Sky Sports
Everton v Man Utd 4.10pm - Sky Sports
Man City v West Brom 8pm - Sky Sports
Sunderland are six points from safety with five games remaining.
|Barclays Premier League table - top seven|
Click on tabs above for more briefing.
WE HAVE HISTORY
Six times Chelsea have played a relegation-bound Sunderland side and on each occasion - 1969/70, 1984/85, 1990/91, 1996/97, 2002/03, 2005/06 - the Blues have won at home in the league, with an aggregate 17 goals to five.
In January 1970 Chelsea were handily-placed third in the First Division and hopeful of further progress in the FA Cup when Sunderland visited. The Rokerites were in the bottom three and fighting for their lives.
Referee Clive Thomas booked two Sunderland men - skipper Colin Todd and Les Irwin - as well as Blues' left-back Eddie McCreadie in a bad-tempered encounter. After one great early chance and a penalty shout for the north-easterners went begging, Chelsea took control of the game with two strikes in six minutes.
Peter Osgood scored both, the first a tap-in from a cross Jim Montgomery might have prevented, the second a brilliantly precise curling shot round the keeper.
With Tommy Baldwin on for the hamstrung Ron Harris and a cup tie with Crystal Palace on their minds, Dave Sexton's men took their collective foot off the Sunderland throat.
Only when Joe Baker headed in a shot that had rebounded off the bar did the Blues rouse themselves. It was Osgood who ended their challenge, cleverly latching onto an errant pass towards Montgomery and dispatching for his hat-trick to make it 3-1.
Mick McCarthy was in charge in September 2005 when Sunderland faced a Jose Mourinho side on course for back-to-back titles at the Bridge. The visitors held their own in the first half but a rash throw-out by goalie Kelvin Davis put Andy Welsh under pressure. Geremi picked the full-back's pocket and slammed the opener under Davis.
Didier Drogba, on for Hernan Crespo, completed a 2-0 win by heading in fellow substitute Damien Duff's cross inside the last 10 minutes. The result kept Chelsea top of the league with five straight victories and no goals conceded.
Chelsea have won 17 of our last 18 Premier League meetings over the last 12 years. Sunderland's only win in that period was in November 2010 when goals from Nedum Onuoha, Asamoah Gyan and Danny Welbeck without reply secured the three points at Stamford Bridge.
The Black Cats only other win at the Bridge in the last 57 years was in March 2001 when Sunderland beat Chelsea 4-2 despite the Blues taking the lead twice through Marcel Desailly and Eidur Gudjohnsen. Don Hutchison with two, Gavin McCann and Kevin Phillips scored for the visitors.
Our last 10 league meetings at Stamford Bridge
2000/01 - Sunderland won 4-2
2001/02 - Chelsea won 4-0
2002/03 - Chelsea won 3-0
2005/06 - Chelsea won 2-0
2007/08 - Chelsea won 2-0
2008/09 - Chelsea won 5-0
2009/10 - Chelsea won 7-2
2010/11 - Sunderland won 3-0
2011/12 - Chelsea won 1-0
2012/13 - Chelsea won 2-1
Other matches this season
4 December 2013 Barclays Premier League
Altidore 13 Lampard 17
O'Shea 49 Hazard 36, 61
Bardsley 85 Bardsley og 83
17 December 2013 Capital One Cup quarter-final
Sunderland.……..…..2 Chelsea………..……1 (aet)
Borini 88 Lampard 46
Ki Sung-Yueng 118
Chelsea v Sunderland in all competitions
Games played 118
Chelsea wins 57
Sunderland wins 40
Head to head in the League at Stamford Bridge
Games played 56
Chelsea wins 37
Sunderland wins 8
Biggest league win at Stamford Bridge for each team
Chelsea 7-2 Sunderland - 16/01/2010
Chelsea 1-4 Sunderland - 12/03/1910
Chelsea dropped points at Stamford Bridge: 80
Sunderland won away from home: 77
Arsenal won a trophy: 3,255
Liverpool won the league: 8,750