Sports Mole provides live text commentary of the Premier League match between Sunderland and Chelsea at the Stadium of Light.
Afternoon all! There are only a handful of games left to play in this Premier League season. The title race has already been won as Leicester City were crowned champions earlier this week, but the top four is yet to be decided and there are still teams battling for their lives at the bottom. One of those teams is Sunderland, and we will be bringing you all the action from their match against Chelsea at the Stadium of Light.
The Black Cats still have a chance of retaining their Premier League status as they are one point off safety with three games to play. Their bitter rivals Newcastle currently occupy the place above them, but Sam Allardyce and his men have a game in hand on the Magpies. Sunderland could probably get away with picking up a point today, but a win would relax the fans slightly ahead of games against Everton and Watford.
As for Chelsea, well, it's been a disappointing season for them in general given that they have failed to defend their league title and will miss out on a place in next season's Champions League. Guus Hiddink's side are hoping to finish the campaign on a high, though, as they prepare to face Sunderland, Liverpool and champions Leicester in their final three games. Earlier in the season, the Blues lingered towards the relegation zone, but they have moved back into the top half of the table and currently sit ninth in the standings.
Sam Allardyce has selected the same XI that he has started in their last five matches. This team are unbeaten in their last three games. So, Vito Mannone lines up in goal, with DeAndre Yedlin, Patrick van Aanholt, Younes Kaboul and Lamine Kone in defence. Jan Kirchhoff, Lee Cattermole and Yann M'Vila also keep their places, while Fabio Borini and Wahbi Khazri will provide attacking support to Jermain Defoe.
As for the visitors, Chelsea interim boss Guus Hiddink has made two changes to the side that drew 2-2 with Tottenham Hotspur on Monday. Thibaut Courtois returns in between the sticks after serving a two-game ban, while Eden Hazard has come into the fray following his impressive performance after coming off the bench against Spurs. The changes mean that goalkeeper Asmir Begovic drops to the bench, while Pedro is not in the squad at all today.
So, Branislav Ivanovic, Gary Cahill, John Terry and Cesar Azpilicueta will line the defence, with John Obi Mikel and Nemanja Matic holding midfield. Willian, Cesc Fabregas and Hazard will sit above the midfield two, with Diego Costa leading the line up front.
Sunderland have been battling relegation in the last few seasons and this one has been no different. Their destiny is in their own hands as they have one game extra to play as opposed to their relegation rivals Newcastle, who are currently safe but just by one point. Norwich City are also in the bottom three and they are currently one point behind Sunderland because at the moment they are losing 1-0 to Manchester United.
Last weekend's 1-1 draw with Stoke City could end up being a crucial result in Sunderland's battle to stay up. The Black Cats were staring at a 1-0 defeat after Marko Arnautovic took the lead in the 50th minute. As the clock ticked down, Sunderland struggled to find an equaliser, but they were dealt some luck when a penalty was awarded in the fourth minute of stoppage time. Jermain Defoe managed to slot it home to give Sunderland an important point.
Since March, the North-East outfit have struggled to turn draws into wins. They have recorded six draws in their last eight Premier League games. In that time, they suffered a 2-0 defeat to champions Leicester and managed to beat fellow relegation battlers Norwich 3-0 at Carrow Road.
The draws came against Crystal Palace, Southampton, Newcastle, West Bromwich Albion, Arsenal and Stoke. So far this season, Sunderland have drawn 11 of their 35 league games, lost 17 and won just seven. Under former manager Dick Advocaat, it took them nine games before they picked up their first win in the top flight. The victory came against arch rivals Newcastle and the ended up as 3-0 winners. The team only won six more games after that, and they were against Crystal Palace, Stoke, Aston Villa, Swansea City, Manchester United and Norwich.
Last season, Sunderland secured their safety in the Premier League by holding Arsenal to a goalless draw at the Emirates. It was their penultimate game of the season and a subsequent 3-1 defeat to Chelsea did not affect their position. This time, Sunderland will have to pick up some points in their final three games given how tight it is at the bottom.
STATS! As we know, Sunderland have only managed to win one of their last nine league games having drawn six and lost two, and they have scored more than one goal in just two of those fixtures. Goals have been hard to come by at home in particular this season as they have netted just 17 at the Stadium of Light. Only already-relegated Aston Villa have a worse record (14).
DID YOU KNOW? Defoe is having a positive season on the goal front given that he has scored 14 times in the league, but only three of them have been produced at home. The striker does have an opportunity to equal or improve on his highest scoring tally, though. His best season was the 2009-10 campaign when he scored 18 league goals for Spurs, so he needs four more in his last there games to match it.
The Black Cats face a tough task against Chelsea, particularly after watching the Blues' comeback on Monday night. Tottenham seemed to be in complete control when they went 2-0 up in the first half, but Chelsea fought back with goals from Gary Cahill and Eden Hazard to restrict them to a draw. It was a fiery encounter and the pressure looked to have got to the Tottenham players. Allardyce has urged his team not to have the same downfall.
UPDATE! It's good news for Sunderland as Norwich have been beaten 1-0 by Manchester United at Carrow Road. This means that the Canaries remain one point behind the Black Cats with two games left to play. To reach the match report, click here.
Let's go back to Monday's game, shall we? It was a thrilling game to watch as Tottenham needed a win in order to keep themselves in the title race alongside Leicester. Mauricio Pochettino's side seemed to be on the verge of doing so when they scored twice in the first half. Harry Kane and Son Heung-min got on the scoresheet as Spurs looked comfortable on the Stamford Bridge pitch, but it all changed in the second half.
Gary Cahill sparked a comeback by scoring from a corner in the 58th minute and tempers began to flare between the London rivals. Referee Mark Clattenburg dished out 12 yellow cards in total and it was surprising that nobody was sent off! There were two mass brawls, one during the game and the second on the final whistle, and Mousa Dembele has been struck with a six-game ban for appearing to eye gouge Diego Costa during a confrontation.
The moment when Tottenham's title dreams were crushed was when Eden Hazard scored a sublime goal in the 83rd minute, handing the title to Leicester. Chelsea have been out of the title race for a long time, so the fans wanted nothing more than to stop Spurs from getting their hands on the crown. Added to that, they were also backing former Chelsea boss Claudio Ranieri, who has guided Leicester to a remarkable title win. This was the moment when Chelsea booted Spurs out of the title race...
Chelsea were obviously pleased to restrict their London rivals to just a point, but they are used to being in the title race themselves. They won the crown under former manager Jose Mourinho last season in comfortable fashion, but they have experienced a big decline in this campaign. The club dropped down the table, Mourinho was sacked, and their hopes of silverware were dashed.
The best that Chelsea can hope for is a top-half finish in the table. There is reason for optimism, though, as they begin a new era under manager Antonio Conte next season. Hiddink has had the reigns since December and he has done well in the Premier League as they went 15 games unbeaten before suffering a surprise 1-0 loss to Swansea City.
Another disappointing result followed when they were beaten 3-0 by Manchester City on home turf. It was the Sergio Aguero show as he scored a hat-trick, completely dominating the Blues at the Bridge. Chelsea are unbeaten in their last two league games, though, following a 4-1 triumph over Bournemouth and their comeback draw against Tottenham.
One of the main problems for Chelsea this season has been the lack of form from individual players. Hazard was named PFA Player of the Year last season, but he has been a shadow of his former self in this campaign. A big reason for it has been a troublesome hip problem that he has had to deal with for months, but he seems to be finding form now. The playmaker has scored three goals in his last two league games.
All eyes will turn to the transfer window when the season ends, and John Terry will be one man in the headlines. The centre-back is expected to leave his boyhood club this summer after he was not offered a new contract. Chelsea themselves have publicly stated that a new deal has not been ruled out, but the Daily Mail reported earlier this week that the former England international is planning to hire Stamford Bridge to stage a leaving party. This means that Terry's final game in front of Chelsea's home fans could be against champions Leicester on the last day of the season.
DID YOU KNOW? Chelsea have had 19 different scorers this season, which is a Premier League high. Also, their 19 points from eight away games in 2016 is the best in the top flight this season. With regards to the team's defensive work, though, they have kept just one clean sheet in their last 11 games in this division.
HEAD TO HEAD: Chelsea are on top in the head-to-head records given that they have won 19 of their last 23 league meetings with Sunderland. The Black Cats have won just two of them. Also, it has been 16 years since the North-East outfit secured a home win over Chelsea.
Right, both teams are out on the pitch. The obligatory handshakes are underway and we are just a matter of minutes away from kickoff.
KICKOFF! Chelsea get us underway at the Stadium of Light! Sunderland's survival hopes will be boosted with a win today. Let's see what happens!
BOOKING! Bad news for Cahill as he goes into the book in the first minute! Sunderland start with attacking intent, putting pressure on Chelsea's back line. The visitors win the ball back and Fabregas tries a back pass but it's sloppy and goes into the path of Defoe. Cahill brings him down and gives away a free kick.
The set piece is wasted by Sunderland, though, as Khazri takes it, but his attempt blasts straight into the wall.
Now it's Chelsea's turn to attack and they manage to find a way through. It's not the best defending from Sunderland as Fabregas is given space on the edge of the box. The Spaniard lines up a shot, but a tackle stops him from letting one fly.
The visitors opt for a long-ball approach as its hoofed up top for Costa, who manages to brust away from his markers, but Mannone comes out to collect.
Penalty? Nope! Azpilicueta wants one after he goes down in the box after challenging Yedlin for the ball, but the referee waves away his claims. The Sunderland defender made little contact so it with the right call from referee Mike Jones.
It's been a decent start to the game with movement at either end. Sunderland have approached the game with plenty of energy and they're pressing the Chelsea defence. The home fans in the stadium will hope that it pays off with goals!
CHANCE! The first opportunity of the game goes to Chelsea. Azpilicueta and Hazard link up in the middle of the park before the playmaker races down the left wing. The Belgian charges into the box and squares the ball to Willian, who shoots lot, but Mannone drops down to save comfortably.
Hazard is getting involved in these early stages. The Belgian pokes the ball through to Fabregas, who whips the ball into the box, which is deflected behind by Kone. Chelsea are getting on top here.
Chelsea put a dent in Sunderland's survival hopes by taking the lead at the Stadium of Light! It's Costa who gets the glory after slotting home from six yards out. The striker was a little fortunate as Cahill's pass got deflected off a Sunderland shirt and into Costa's path.
Chelsea are flying high after taking the lead and Sunderland are struggling to see any of the ball. Allardyce's players need to take the sting out of Chelsea's momentum otherwise they may face a bigger deficit.