A recovering Chelsea will be out for revenge when they travel to Sunderland’s Stadium of Light in the English Premier League on Tuesday.
Defending champions Chelsea suffered a shock 3-0 loss at home to Sunderland in November, sparking a precipitous loss of form.
They won just once in eight subsequent league games – the club’s worst run in 10 years.
But owner Roman Abramovich kept faith with manager Carlo Ancelotti and the team have seemingly turned a corner.
They beat Championship strugglers Ipswich 7-0 in the FA Cup, before a 2-0 win over Blackburn Rovers and a 4-0 victory over Bolton Wanderers in the league.
The revival took a jolt when they were forced to scramble for a 1-1 draw away to Everton in the FA Cup fourth round on Saturday.
Abramovich has also demonstrated his faith in Ancelotti with big-money bids for Benfica defender David Luiz and Liverpool striker Fernando Torres.
Chelsea will travel to Sunderland aiming to pay back Steve Bruce’s side for the damage inflicted on their title defence.
Following their improbable victory at Stamford Bridge – Chelsea’s heaviest defeat at home since 2002 – Sunderland have won five and drawn three out of 11 matches to sit sixth in the table.
Just four points behind Chelsea and enjoying one of their best seasons in the Premier League, they were rocked in January by the surprise departure of top-scorer Darren Bent to Aston Villa.
Manager Steve Bruce still has the services of record-signing Asamoah Gyan to call on in attack, but it remains to be seen if the Ghana international can fill the void left by the departure of Bent.
New arrival Stephane Sessegnon from Paris Saint-Germain and loan signing Sulley Muntari could make their debuts for Bruce’s side.
Sunderland also have a number of important players out, including forwards Danny Welbeck and Fraizer Campbell, defender Michael Turner and captain Lee Cattermole.
Sidelined centre-back Alex continues to be a major absentee for Chelsea, while key midfielder Frank Lampard, who has endured his most injury-interrupted season to date at Stamford Bridge, is still in doubt after missing the match against Bolton.
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