MARTIN O’NEILL says reports of Chelsea’s demise have been over-exaggerated and it is vital no-one at Sunderland is fooled into thinking Chelsea will be anything other than formidable on their home turf tomorrow afternoon.
The Black Cats head to Stamford Bridge – scene of their famous 3-0 victory last season – in buoyant mood after a dramatic revival in form under new manager Martin O’Neill.
And that has sparked optimism that Sunderland can keep their impressive run of results going against a Champions League side which has faltered in recent weeks.
Andre Villas-Boas’ Chelsea may be fourth in the table but they have struggled alarmingly by their own standards over the festive period, winning just one of their last five Premier League games and finding themselves 11 points behind leaders Manchester City.
They have also lost three times at home already - their worst record since they 2003-04, when it took them an entire season to lose as many games on their own patch.
Resurgent Sunderland meanwhile are the form side of the Premier League at the moment with four of O’Neill’s six games being won – a run which has lifted the club from the edge of the relegation zone to the top half of the table.
But while many are questioning whether Chelsea are a fading force in need of new blood, O’Neill insists Sunderland will underestimate the Londoners at their peril.
“Visiting Stamford Bridge is still a daunting proposition!” he said.
“Chelsea are a team in transition, that’s certainly true, but their very, very good players are still very, very good players.
“They may not be as strong as the Chelsea that was winning the title a few years ago. They may well feel that the title is beyond them at the moment in terms of where they are and the points they have got.
“But they are still very, very good and very, very strong.
“They beat Manchester City at Stamford Bridge a month ago.
“And, just in case anyone needs reminding, they are in the last 16 of the Champions League as well.”
Full story in Friday’s Mail