Competition: Premier League – Chelsea vs. Sunderland
Venue: Stamford Bridge – Saturday, December 19 – 15:00 GMT (10:00 ET)
Match Odds: Chelsea 30/100 – Draw 4/1 – Sunderland 10/1
Speculation over how much longer Mourinho would retain his job was rapidly escalating after the 2-1 defeat away at Leicester on Monday night, and Roman Abramovich obviously believes something needed to change.
While Mourinho’s sacking will undoubtedly be the centre of attention on Saturday afternoon, it’s vital that Chelsea’s players remind themselves of just how important this game is.
No one could’ve predicted that the Blues would be 16th, almost halfway through the season, nor would anyone expect they’d be coming into a fixture they must win in order to quickly abolish the almost unthinkable question marks over the possibility of relegation.
A tenth league defeat for the reigning champions could see them slip into the drop zone by the end of the weekend, depending on Norwich and Swansea’s results.
Sunderland are in their own scrap for survival and every point for them will be crucial – they’ll be hoping Chelsea are a wounded animal right now – although it’s tough to know whether this is the best or worst time to be visiting Stamford Bridge.
A couple of wins at the end of November looked to have kick-started the Black Cats’ season, but that progress was halted by defeat to Arsenal, followed by a disappointing 1-0 loss at home to Watford last time out.
Sam Allardyce is the master of dealing with situations such as the one Sunderland find themselves in right now, but he will know their record of three wins from 16 games so far needs to improve immediately.
The last meeting between these two sides saw Chelsea come out on top in a 3-1 win on the final day of last season – a game that seems like a very distant memory now.
Chelsea’s Eden Hazard (hip) and Radamel Falcao (muscular) are both looking to recover from injuries in the hope of being fit to play.
Sunderland will be without Sebastian Larsson (knee), Lee Cattermole (back) and Sebastian Coates (illness).Embed from Getty Images
Chelsea’s last five: L/W/D/L/L
Sunderland’s last five: L/W/W/L/L
Key Stat: Chelsea have only lost to Sunderland twice in the past 22 meetings between the sides in the Premier League (W18, D2), although both those defeats came at Stamford Bridge.
Key Player: Willian – The Brazilian has been one of the few highlights for Chelsea this season. He’s their top goalscorer with seven in all competitions and they’ll be hoping his form continues despite the upheaval.
Chelsea 1-1 Sunderland – This is so tough to call given the current events off the pitch at Chelsea. It’s impossible for it to not be playing on the minds of the players, whether they’re happy to see the back of Mourinho or not. Either way, it will have an influence, and with just one win in seven for the hosts, a tight draw could be on the cards.