CONNOR Wickham insists Sunderland have the ability to deepen Chelsea’s worries this weekend, despite lying just a point above the Premier League drop zone themselves.
The European and FA Cup champions were buoyant in the opening three months of the campaign, yet the dismissal of manager Roberto Di Matteo and a seven game winless league run have prompted intense scrutiny of affairs at Stamford Bridge.
Pilloried new manager Rafa Benitez has taken just two points from his opening three Premier League games at the helm, and will suffer the almighty blow of Champions League elimination tonight, if Chelsea fail to beat Nordsjaelland and Juventus avoid defeat at Shaktar Donetsk.
Sunderland cannot lay claim to being in any better spirits after three defeats in their last five outings – a return which has left them embedded among the early relegation contenders.
But Wickham believes Sunderland can take advantage of Chelsea’s turmoil at the Stadium of Light on Saturday to improve their precarious situation at the wrong end of the table.
Wickham told the Gazette: “The boys know what they’ve got to do to get out of this situation. We’ve just got to start playing from the first whistle.
“It won’t be easy against Chelsea, but they’re not on the best of runs, so hopefully we can take advantage of that and do what we need to do.
“We’ve got enough ability in our dressing room to beat anybody on our day I think.
“We know what we’ve got to do to get up the table.”
Wickham is in contention to make his first start since December on Saturday, if top scorer Steven Fletcher fails to recover from the ankle injury he suffered at Norwich.
Fletcher continues to undergo treatment on the problem, with his ever-present record since arriving from Wolves under threat.
But Louis Saha is available, with the Frenchman’s absence from the bench at Norwich due to tactical reasons, rather than an injury, which was originally thought to be the case.
Confidence, rather than personnel, remains the biggest problem for Sunderland though after a woeful first-half display in last weekend’s defeat at Norwich City.
However, Wickham believes a lack of self belief is more of an issue for his team-mates than for himself, with the 19-year-old spending the campaign scrapping just to feature for the first-team.
“For me, I’ve got nothing to lose, whereas it’s not the same for the rest of the boys,” added Wickham.
“We’ve just got to start putting it in and working together, progress and get up the league.”