Premier League Preview: Chelsea vs Sunderland

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  • Chelsea have beaten Sunderland in their last four Premier League visits to Stamford Bridge
  • Sunderland knocked Chelsea out of the Capital One Cup in December
  • Chelsea have not conceded a single goal at Stamford Bridge in any competition since January 19 vs Manchester United

With Chelsea needing a Liverpool slip-up to have a shot at the title, they still must take care of business down the stretch.

They take on the league’s bottom-tier side in Sunderland at Stamford Bridge 12:30ET on NBCSN or live online at NBC Sports Live Extra.

Jose Mourinho still has yet to lose at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League, and it would seem unlikely for Sunderland to be that first team. However, with Manchester City failing to put the Black Cats away midweek, no doubt the Blues will be on their best behavior.

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Eden Hazard’s miss due to injury is just about the only thing Sunderland have going for them this weekend at Stamford Bridge.

That midweek draw with City halted Sunderland’s five-match losing streak that saw them stuck at the bottom of the table, and they remain six points from safety with a game in hand but also a tough remaining schedule.

Mourinho has built a fortress at his London home, with the club not having conceded a goal at home since their January 19th encounter with Manchester United – a run of nine matches and counting.  They haven’t kept clean sheets against just anybody either – teams failing to score include Paris Saint-Germain, Arsenal, Galatasaray, Tottenham Hotspur, and Everton.

On that same note, they haven’t allowed a goal anywhere in their last three matches, the last being Javier Pastore’s stoppage-time score at Parc des Princes in the Champions League.

Sunderland will have to deal with a few key injuries, with Liam Bridcutt, Ki Sung-Yueng and Carlos Cuéllar are all likely out for the Black Cats.  Chelsea are mostly fit, with the only injury a big one – Eden Hazard is reportedly going to be unfit for the weekend, and could even miss out on their Champions League semifinal first leg next week.

What they’re saying:

Jurgen Klinsmann on Sunderland striker Jozy Altidore: “As a striker, scoring goals gives you the confidence you need going into the next game. From the extreme positive, the same could be said for Jozy right now at Sunderland, going through the extreme negative. At the end of the day you have to manage those faces and we all hope that Jozy keeps his head up and stays positive and waits for his next opportunity” (for more on this, click here for our story).

Gus Poyet on Chelsea’s fortress: “Plenty of teams have gone to Chelsea for many years and never won, so we know how difficult it is. People can ask why we should beat them at home for the first time, but why not? We just have to make sure we go there and give everything.”

Chelsea assistant Steve Holland on title race: “You’re always under pressure in football these days. Whether you’re at a big club, small club, whether you’re in August/September or whether it’s in March/April, you’re always managing that pressurized situation. You have a chance to rescue things in the beginning of the year; for example it’s nice to hear in February that you’re still in all four cup competitions, but there does come a point – and I think that’s pretty much where we are now – where one week you could be in two, three competitions and then a week later you’re out of all of them. I think Barcelona have experienced that this week…that situation obviously increases the pressure on you because you don’t have a chance to recover.”

Prediction:

Literally everything is against Sunderland this time around. While that to some would indicate an upset is brewing, it’s just about impossible to see how Gus Poyet can manufacture an upset here.  While some are going for a massive Chelsea win, it’s probably going to be a little more difficult, but once the Blues get their opener it’s no looking back.  A 3-0 Chelsea win seems about right, with the first coming five minutes before halftime.

Ronaldo explains his new chin hair at World Cup

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Now that Cristiano Ronaldo has taken to sporting a reasonable hairstyle atop his head, people are talking about the foliage on his face.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

Ronaldo, 33, drew speculation when he stroked his chin following a goal in his hat trick performance against Spain in the World Cup opener. Some said he was demonstrating defiance against Lionel Messi posing with a goat (Greatest Of All Time) in a recent photograph.

Ronaldo scored again on Wednesday, and there was seemingly little doubt his goatee was a wink to the speculators. But what did it mean, CR7? From ESPN:

“This goatee? It’s a joke I had with [Ricardo] Quaresma. “We were in the sauna [before Friday’s match against Spain] and I started to shave and I left the goatee. I said if I score tomorrow, I would leave it for the rest of the tournament. And it gave me luck.

“I scored in that game, I scored in this one, so it stays.”

Personally, I like to imagine Ronaldo starting to get as wild with his facial hair as he did his head hair.

Perhaps a beatnik style, or something like Serj Tankian from System of a Down. Get nuts, C-Ron.

Report: Southampton could sell Tadic to Ajax for $20m

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Could Southampton be selling one of its most creative forces?

Dusan Tadic, 29, is in the middle of a World Cup run with dark horse Serbia, but the Saints star is also being talked about as a purchase item for Ajax.

[ MORE: Serbia tops Costa Rica ]

The celebrated Eredivisie has traditionally been a selling club for the Premier League, but could be a $20 million buy for Ajax.

The report says director of players Marc Overmars and financial director Jeroen Slop have flown to Southampton to work out a deal.

Tadic starred for Dutch sides Groningen and Twente between 2010-14 before moving to St. Mary’s for a reported $12 million.

He’s scored 24 goals with 35 assists in 162 appearances for Saints, 21 and 30 of which came in the Premier League.

Toronto locks down USMNT backstop Bono with extension

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Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono is going to stay Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

The newly-capped USMNT backstop, 24, has been attracting interest from abroad since breaking past Clint Irwin to win the TFC job and guiding the club to multiple MLS Cup Finals.

Now general manager Tim Bezbatchenko has locked down his young goalkeeper to an undisclosed contract extension. From TorontoFC.com:

“Alex was a big part of our success last season. He set club records for wins and clean sheets and was a critical piece of our championship team,” said Toronto FC Sr. Vice-President, Soccer Operations & General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko. “Since joining the club as a first round pick in 2015, Alex’s ability to make key saves in big moments has been critical to our success.”

The Syracuse-born product of Syracuse University has made 64 appearances for the Reds.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 8 — Argentina on the edge; France aims for berth

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France, Denmark, and Croatia can clinch knockout round berths on Thursday in Russia, the last nation also holding the opportunity to help deprive the World Cup of an extended Lionel Messi run.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Messi’s Argentina drew Iceland in its opener, the megastar infamously missing a penalty, and will look to beat a Croatian side that looked quite good in dispatching Nigeria.

That’s the final match of the day, which begins with Denmark facing Australia and continues with a tasty match-up between France and Peru.

Below is Thursday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Wednesday, June 20

Group C
Denmark vs. Australia: Samara, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
France vs. Peru: Yekaterinburg, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group D
Argentina vs. Croatia: Nizhny Novgorod, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE