Two teams with a collective total of just five wins from their last 20 matches go head to head on Saturday (3pm GMT) when Sunderland face Chelsea at the Stadium of Light.
Sunderland have won just twice all season and find themselves one place and one point above the relegation places with 13 points from their 14 matches.
The Black Cats have drawn 50% of their matches, three of them 0-0, and have been pretty dour in all of them. Both their wins came against teams reduced to ten men before Sunderland opened the scoring.
Finding the back of the net has been Sunderland’s primary problem so far this season, with just 13 goals scored to date – the joint-third worst record in the division.
Martin O’Neill’s men actually have one of the best conversion rates in the league, but they are simply not creating enough chances. They average the least shots per match (10.6) and shots on target per match (2.9) in the division, statistics that are representative of clear under-performance in the final third.
New signing Steven Fletcher scored five goals in his first four Premier League appearances but has scored just one in nine thereafter. Only four other Sunderland players have scored this season, none more than twice.
Fletcher is struggling for fitness ahead of Saturday’s match and could see his place in the starting 11 taken by Connor Wickham if he fails to recover from the ankle injury he picked up in the 2-1 defeat away to Norwich last weekend.
Stephane Sessegnon was one of Sunderland’s best performers last season, scoring seven goals and providing nine assists over the course of the campaign, but has been far less influential time this around. He has scored twice but is yet to provide an assist and is making less than half the number of key passes (0.8 per match, on average) he made last season (2).
O’Neill needs to start getting more from Sessegnon and last season’s surprise package James McClean if Sunderland are to score the goals necessary to pull themselves away from the bottom three.
Chelsea, too, have struggled for Premier League goals in recent weeks, managing just three in their last five matches, including one in the three matches since Rafael Benitez replaced Roberto Di Matteo in the Stamford Bridge dugout.
Benitez did finally get to witness a deluge of goals on Wednesday as Chelsea defeated Nordsjaelland 6-1 in the Champions League, but it was a bittersweet night for the Spaniard as his side were eliminated from the competition following Juventus’ win away to Shakhtar Donetsk.
Fernando Torres scored his first goals since the appointment of Benitez on Wednesday, ending a seven-match scoreless run that had intensified suggestions Chelsea will spend big in January to procure a top class replacement for him. Until then, Benitez will have to hope Torres can get back amongst the goals in domestic action, starting on Saturday.
The Sunderland match is Chelsea’s last before they head to Japan to take part in the Club World Cup and Benitez will be keen to depart for the Far East on the back of a first Premier League victory of his short reign to date.
Chelsea drew both of Benitez’s first two matches 0-0, at home to Manchester City and Fulham, and followed those results with a 3-1 defeat away to West Ham last weekend. The Blues led at half-time but capitulated in the second half, lacking leadership or composure as West Ham poured forward in waves, scoring three times to secure a famous victory.
Benitez is still feeling his way into the job and is yet to find the right balance between attack and defence. It must be remembered that Chelsea were hardly in electric form prior to his arrival. The Blues were winless in Di Matteo’s final four Premier League matches, while it was defeats away to Shakhtar and Juventus that did for their Champions League defence.
Chelsea are currently third in the Premier League table, level on points with Tottenham and West Brom behind them, but some 10 points short of league leaders Manchester United.
Sunderland v Chelsea Betting Tips
Neither side is in good form coming into this match, but we believe Chelsea have enough offensive talent to get the limited number of goals likely to be required for them to emerge victorious.
Sunderland have scored just five times at home all season and won just once in front of the Stadium of Light faithful. They lack invention and incision in the final third and we see little to suggest their home record will get better any time soon.