Relegation-threatened Sunderland continue their latest attempt at staging a great escape this weekend when Chelsea travel to the Stadium of Light.
Sam Allardyce’s side slipped into the bottom three last weekend after Newcastle United’s win against Crystal Palace, Sunderland having snatched a late draw at Stoke City.
One point separates the two fierce rivals, although Sunderland have a game in hand on Rafael Benitez’s side.
And they may well need it given their disappointing record against Chelsea, the visitors having won nine of their last 11 visits to Wearside – a run that stretches back nearly 16 years.
Despite history appearing to be against them, Sebastian Larsson is confident Sunderland – who avoided relegation in the final weeks of last season – can stay in touch with Newcastle by winning on Saturday.
“We’ve done it [beaten the big teams] when we’ve really had to in previous seasons,” he told the club’s official website. “It’s the same again and we have to go for the three points.
“There are three games left and luckily enough it is in our own hands, but we need to collect as many points as possible to make sure it remains that way.
“It’s massive for our destiny to be in our own hands at this stage of the season, so hopefully we can get the three points on Saturday and head into the Everton game confident and pick up another win.
“This would set us up nicely heading into the final weekend.”
They will need to improve their scoring record at home if they are to claim all three points, though. Sunderland – injury free – have failed to find the back of the net in their last three matches at the Stadium of Light.
Chelsea go into the clash after a stunning late comeback against Tottenham on Monday, Eden Hazard’s strike earning a 2-2 draw that handed Leicester City the Premier League title.
After last season’s success, 2015-16 has been one of frustration at Stamford Bridge and Saturday’s trip will be the penultimate game for Guus Hiddink before he hands over to Antonio Conte.
The Dutch coach has no new injury worries ahead of the fixture despite some brutal challenges towards the end of the Tottenham game that saw Eden Hazard scythed down by Eric Dier and Diego Costa appear to have his eye gouged by Mousa Dembele, with only Loic Remy (groin) and Kurt Zouma (knee) sidelined.
Key Opta stats:
– Chelsea have won 19 and lost just two of their last 22 Premier League games against Sunderland.
– Chelsea have won six and lost just one of their last nine Premier League away matches, conceding just four times in that run.
– Sunderland have won just one of their last nine league games (D6 L2).
– Cesc Fabregas has scored four Premier League goals against Sunderland, his joint-best haul against any opponent (along with Everton).
– Just three of Jermain Defoe’s 14 goals for the Black Cats in the Premier League this season have been scored at the Stadium of Light.
– A league-high 19 different players have scored for Chelsea in the Premier League this season.