Liam Bridcutt

Premier League Preview: Chelsea vs. Sunderland

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• Victory on Sunday would be the Black Cats’ third in five Premier League games at Stamford Bridge.

• If Chelsea fail to win they will be only the second champions in the last 12 seasons to end with fewer than 86 points. Manchester United took the title with 80 points in 2011.

• The Black Cats have won just one of their 13 previous games on the final day of a Premier League season. (BBC Sport)

On Sunday, when Chelsea and Sunderland face off to conclude each’s 2014-15 Premier League season, neither squad will have much to worry about.

The last meeting between these outfits ended in a 0-0 draw back in November, Sunderland’s “parked bus” tactic working at its finest.

The Blues clinched the Premier League title weeks ago—on May 3—with a 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace. Since then, manager Jose Mourinho has noticed a small patch of inconsistency, as his side drew Liverpool at Stamford Bridge and lost 3-0 to mid-table dweller West Brom.

[RELATED: Premier League table | Stat leaders | Highlights ]

But aside from the latest problems, Chelsea has been at the pinnacle of English soccer for the majority of the season, and Mourinho and Co. continue to add awards to their trophy case marking the overall triumph of the past nine months.

Meanwhile, for Sunderland boss Dick Advocaat, avoiding demotion to the Championship became his main priority after the club sacked Gus Poyet in the middle of March. At that point, the Black Cats were just one point above the relegation zone and had lost to Aston Villa, 4-0, on home ground.

[RELATED: Behind the scenes at Stoke City with USMNT defender Geoff Cameron]

Advocaat was brought in to salvage what little positive action could be mustered late in the year, following weeks of disappointment for a side that should’ve never dwelled near the bottom-three for so long.

Sunderland’s draw to Arsenal last week ensured a five-game unbeaten run, an extension offer to the Dutch boss, and most importantly, survival.

Catch the action this Sunday at 10:00 a.m. ET on NBCSN, or online through Live Extra.

What they’re saying

Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho reflects on personal attitude throughout season (ESPN FC): “I’m not the kind of person to regret. What you did, you did. What happened, happened. You cannot change things. Time does not go back…We had lots of mistakes against us, that’s the reality, but that’s football. Maybe ‘campaign’ is not a nice word. Maybe I would take that word out from my explanation and my comments, but that’s the reality.”

Sunderland striker Steven Fletcher on Advocaat staying on as manager (The Guardian): “It’s been a remarkable turnaround since Dick came in,” said the Sunderland striker. He’s been great. He got his style of play in place and across to us straight away and it’s reflected in the points we’ve put on the board….He’s only been here for a couple of months but you could see what survival meant to him. He’s a very passionate man. We see it in training every day.”

Match injuries/absences

Most notably, Chelsea will not have Eden Hazard on the pitch due to his recovery from wisdom teeth surgery, while Cesc Fabregas will serve his one-game ban originating from a red card against West Brom.

Young center back Kurt Zouma, Ramires, Petr Cech and Oscar are all not ready to play because of injury.

Black Cats midfielder Sebastian Larsson has recovered from a mid-week problem and should appear for Sunderland. Goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon is out with a knee condition. Other Sunderland players sidelined with injury: Wes Brown, Jordi Gomez, Liam Bridcutt and Danny Graham.

Prediction

Being a game that has little significance besides entertainment value, the result will hinge on the amount of effort players on both sides are willing to put forth. Chelsea 3-2 Sunderland.

Watch Live: Arsenal vs Sunderland (Lineups and Live Stream)

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Arsene Wenger is still pushing for second place, even though it’s a serious long shot.

Five points back of Manchester City, Arsenal must win out coupled with a Manchester City loss for any hope at achieving second. That starts with today’s match against Sunderland with a 2:45 P.M. kickoff at the Emirates, live on NBCSN or live online at NBC Sports Live Extra.

And for it, Wenger has his men. Laurent Koscielny has overcome a sickness to make the starting lineup, Jack Wilshere is back from his long spell on the bench, and Kieran Gibbs makes a return as well. With the new reinforcements, the in-form Francis Coquelin drops to the bench.

WATCH LIVE: Arsenal vs. Sunderland live online at NBC Sports Live Extra.

For Sunderland, this match is much more important. Three points ahead of the drop, they need just one more point to secure safety, and can do so today. If they fail to pick up any points today, they’ll need to make something happen at the title winners on Sunday to ensure their Premier League survival.

Thankfully for the Black Cats, Dick Advocaat also has reinforcements. While Liam Bridcutt is out with an injury suffered last weekend, Adam Johnson comes in to replace him. Billy Jones is fit after finding himself substituted last weekend with a knock, and Jack Rodwell is back and on the bench after recovering from a hamstring issue.

LINEUPS

Arsenal: Ospina, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Ramsey, Cazorla, Wilshere, Ozil, Alexis, Giroud.
Bench: Szczesny, Gabriel, Monreal, Coquelin, Flamini, Rosicky, Walcott.

Sunderland: Pantilimon, Jones, van Aanholt, O’Shea, Coates, Cattermole, Larsson, Johnson, Graham, Defoe, Wickham.
Bench: Rodwell, Fletcher, Reveillere, Giaccherini, Vergini, Buckley, Mannone.

Watch Live: Sunderland vs. Leicester City (Lineups and Live Stream)

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Boy, we have ourselves a relegation six-pointer on Saturday as Sunderland host Leicester City (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET online via Live Extra) at the Stadium of Light.

This match will also be shown on NBCSN, as part of the Breakaway Show will will focus on the three big relegation battles.

Sunderland is two points above the relegation zone with three games left, while Leicester is three points off the bottom three with two games left as both sides have been in great form to drag themselves out of the drop zone in recent weeks. Dick Advocaat’s Black Cats have won two on the spin, while the Foxes have won six of their last seven and a win on Saturday would secure survival if other results go their way.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE VIA LIVE EXTRA

Advocaat’s side finish with games against Arsenal and Chelsea, so they know a win at home to Leicester is a must if they want to stay up. Tension will be in the air.

In team news Sunderland bring in Liam Bridcutt and John O’Shea for the injured Jordi Gomez and Wes Brown, while Leicester make one change with Andy King coming in for Matty James.

LINEUPS

Sunderland: Pantilimon; Jones, Coates, O’Shea, Van Aanholt; Larsson, Cattermole, Bridcutt; Defoe, Graham, Wickham.

Leicester: Schmeichel; Wasilewski, Huth, Morgan; Albrighton, King, Cambiasso, Schlupp; Mahrez, Ulloa, Vardy.

VIDEO: Premier League Team of the Week – Stars of Matchweek 15

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Watch the video above to see who made it into the PL Team of the Week for their displays during Week 15.

[ARCHIVE: Every PL Team of the Week]

Hull City goalkeeper Allan McGregor saved a penalty by Graham Dorrans to preserve a 0-0 draw with West Bromwich Albion, marking a three-penalty streak where McGregor has stopped the opposition from collecting.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights, here ]

Newcastle defenders Daryl Janmaat and Fabricio Coloccini were rewarded for keeping league-leaders Chelsea to just one score, and Magpie striker Papiss Cisse got the nod up front for collecting the double that sent the Blues to their first defeat of the year.

Stoke’s Bojan was recognized for his creative artistry in a 3-2 home win over Arsenal, and West Ham’s Andy Carroll made an appearance by bagging a pair of headed goals – his first around eight months.

Matchday 15 – Premier League Team of the Week (Formation: 3-4-3)

Goalkeeper: Allan McGregor (Hull City)

Defenders: Daryl Janmaat (Newcastle), Fabricio Coloccini (Newcastle), Scott Dann (Crystal Palace)

Midfielders: James Milner (Manchester City), Liam Bridcutt (Sunderland), Leroy Fer (QPR), Bojan Krkic (Stoke City)

Forwards: Jonathan Walters (Stoke City), Andy Carroll (West Ham), Papiss Cisse (Newcastle)

Southampton 8-0 Sunderland: It’s possible Saints are still scoring… (video)

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Graziano Pelle scored a brace and Sunderland put two in their own goal as Southampton roared to a 8-0 win at St. Mary’s on Saturday.

Dusan Tadic had a goal and three assists for the Saints, who now have 16 points on the season. That’s good for third place, 8 points ahead of the Black Cats.

[ RELATED: Watch full match replays ]

Victor Wanyama and Sadio Mane also scored for Saints.

The record for biggest Premier League clean sheet was Manchester United 9-0 Ipswich Town in 1995, but this one came close and sits in the Top Six wins in Premier League history. It’s the biggest PL win since Chelsea beat Aston Villa in Dec. 2012.

[ RELATED: Latest Premier League standings ]

The Saints were rampant, but the first goal was one for groaning. Santiago Vergini’s poor clear looked like an ace’s strike into his own net. Sunderland’s own goal made it 1-0 in cringe-worthy fashion. Watch it here.

Graziano Pelle continued his fine form with a goal moments later, tapping home from Steven Davis to double the lead.

And Jack Cork tripled the visitors pain with a pretty little goal from Dusan Tadic’s cross in the 37th minute, the 3-0 lead forcing Gus Poyet’s hand into a halftime change of Bridcutt for Wes Brown.

Of course Bridcutt did score… in his own goal. The day of misery for Sunderland just wouldn’t stop and it was 4-0 in the 63rd minute.

Tadic turned provider for Pelle in the 69th minute to complete the Italian’s brace.

Lineups

Southampton: Forster, Clyne, Fonte, Bertand, Alderweireld, Cork, Tadic, S. Davis (Mane, 65′), Schneiderlin, Long (Wanyama, 65′), Pelle (Mayuka, 80′)

Goals: Vergini (12′ o.g.), Pelle 2 (18′, 69′), Cork (37′), Bridcutt (63′ o.g.), Tadic (78′), Wanyama (80′), Mane (86′)

Sunderland: Mannone, Vergini, van Aanholt, O’Shea (c), Brown (Bridcutt, 46′), Cattermole, Larsson (Rodwell, 60′), Gomez (Johnson, 61′), Buckley, Wickham, Fletcher