The journey to the north-east to face Sunderland will feel like a short excursion compared with the games to follow. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton look at the way forward following the midweek win…
It is 12 years since Chelsea last lost at Sunderland's ground and Martin O'Neill, who celebrated one year in charge this week, has managed his side to one win in 10 in all competitions. The Blues arrive buoyed by a 6-1 victory, but with the disappointment of failing to defend the Champions League, and on a run of seven league games without a win - the worst sequence for 17 years.
The slaughter of Nordsjaelland on Wednesday continued a plotline their compatriots writing crime drama The Killing might have rejected as implausible a few months ago, even for Chelsea. The champions of Europe bowed out as the group stage's highest goalscorers (16), and with the best record of any side finishing third in the competition. The Blues' points/goal total was superior to five group runners-up - including Shakhtar. It would have been sufficient to top two groups last season.
Dropping into the Europa League now means that Chelsea will compete for a record eighth trophy in one season. Since the final will be staged in Amsterdam ten days before the Champions League equivalent, the Londoners could conceivably become concurrent holders of both UEFA's top trophies. (And possibly world champions.)
Chelsea need the Europa League title (evolved from the UEFA Cup and Inter-Cities Fairs Cup) to complete the UEFA set alongside the Champions League/European Cup, Super Cup and Cup-Winners' Cup.
The extra round in this new competition adds two further games to Chelsea's possible games total this season. Excluding potential FA Cup replays this now stands at 69. That is some challenge: Chelsea have used the fewest players in the Premier League.
The team and fans have taken a fair buffeting so far this season, Juventus's own-goal win at Shakhtar the latest. Still, if there is some unseen hand balancing the reckoning for the joy of May, it is surely worth the trade-off. We'll always have Munich.
Chelsea remained third (on goal difference) at the weekend despite the troubling defeat at West Ham, though the gap between London's top club and the Manchester rivals extended to seven points. The Mancunians face each other on Sunday. Fourth-placed Spurs travel to Everton the same day, and West Brom face strugglers Arsenal at the Emirates.
The midweek strikes by Fernando Torres and Juan Mata mean they both have nine goals to their credit this season; only six players in England have scored more in all competitions. Gary Cahill scored his sixth of the season (pictured below) and is the most prolific defender in the country.
Oscar hit five in the Champions League - one shy of Didier Drogba's tally in our successful 2011/12 campaign. Three were fired in by the Brazilian from outside the area.
Chelsea have the fourth best away record in the Premier League behind the Manchester clubs and Tottenham. That is despite losing two and drawing one of the last three games on the road.
No side has drawn more matches having led than Sunderland, who have managed that four times. The Mackems' home record is worse than any club except QPR's; the two sides share the lowest goals tally as hosts of five.
The last time Rafael Benitez visited the Stadium of Light as a manger he witnessed his Liverpool side lose 0-1 through a Darren Bent goal deflected off a beach ball thrown on to the pitch by one of the Reds' own supporters.
The team fly to Japan for the Club World Cup straight after this match. In the opening game of the tournament on Thursday Sanfrecce Hiroshima beat New Zealand's Auckland City 1-0. The J-League champions now face Al-Ahly of Egypt in the quarter-finals, but are on the other half of the draw to Chelsea.
Two types of goal-line technology will be used in football for the first time in Japan. GoalRef was deployed without incident in Hiroshima's match, while Hawk-Eye will debut in the quarter-finals.
Barclays Premier League fixtures
Arsenal v West Brom 3pm
Aston Villa v Stoke 3pm
Southampton v Reading 3pm
Sunderland v Chelsea 3pm
Swansea v Norwich 3pm
Wigan v QPR 3pm
Manchester City v Manchester United 1.30pm - Sky Sports
Everton v Tottenham 3pm
West Ham v Liverpool 4pm - Sky Sports
Fulham v Newcastle 8pm - Sky Sports
Sunderland v Reading 7.45pm
|Barclays Premier League table|
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WE HAVE HISTORY
This fixture has been played for more than a century. The Londoners' first win at Sunderland came in February 1909, goals from Angus Douglas and Billy Bridgeman earning a 2-1 win.
The most notorious visit to Roker Park was in February 1936 when Sunderland goalkeeper Jimmy Thorpe (pictured below) died soon after a match amidst allegations of violent conduct by Chelsea players. There is a plaque commemorating the tragedy in the Stadium of Light.
The Pensioners drew 3-3, despite Billy Mitchell being sent off at 1-3 down. But the football paled into insignificance when Thorpe, just 22 and a diabetic, collapsed into a coma later the same night and never recovered.
An inquest heard a 'scrimmage' incident described, where a number of Chelsea players allegedly bundled into the goalie, who was afterwards at fault for Joe Bambrick's two late goals. However, none of Thorpe's teammates appeared concerned over his wellbeing afterwards. It was reported Thorpe required no treatment for injury during the game, and actually went dancing that evening.
The Times reported the inquest verdict as 'death by diabetes accelerated by rough usage he received in the game', an assertion Chelsea FC accepted but disagreed with.
Four months after Thorpe's death The FA introduced the law forbidding opposition players from kicking or attempting to kick a ball in the goalkeeper's possession.
Chelsea have won 14 of our last 15 meetings over the last 11 years. Sunderland's only win was in November 2010 when three goals from Nedum Onuoha, Asamoah Gyan and Danny Welbeck without reply surprisingly secured the three points at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea are hoping for an eighth successive Premier League victory against the Black Cats at the Stadium of Light.
Sunderland last beat us in the north-east in October 2000 when they won 1-0 at the Stadium of Light. Kevin Phillips was the lone scorer with a penalty just after the hour. Graeme Le Saux and Kevin Kilbane were both shown the red card a few minutes later.
Our last 10 Premier League games against Sunderland at Roker Park and the Stadium of Light
1999/00 - Sunderland won 4-1
2000/01 - Sunderland won 1-0
2001/02 - Drew 0-0
2002/03 - Chelsea won 2-1
2005/06 - Chelsea won 2-1
2007/08 - Chelsea won 1-0
2008/09 - Chelsea won 3-2
2009/10 - Chelsea won 3-1
2010/11 - Chelsea won 4-2
2011/12 - Chelsea won 2-1
Other match last season
14 January 2012 Barclays Premier League
Sunderland v Chelsea in all competitions
Games played 114
Chelsea wins 54
Sunderland wins 39
Head-to-head in the league at Roker Park and the Stadium of Light
Games played 55
Chelsea wins 18
Sunderland wins 28
Biggest league win at Sunderland for each team
Sunderland 4-0 Chelsea - 30/10/1909, 08/02/1913, 08/09/1934
Sunderland 2-4 Chelsea - 01/02/2011
Visit again tomorrow for part two of the Briefing.