The Blog

Chelsea v Sunderland: Stop the Press, There's a Football Match On!

Paolo Di Canio's first match in charge sees Sunderland head to Stamford Bridge without a win in their last seven games.

They mocked Copernicus when he said planets orbited the sun. They laughed at Columbus when he said earth was round. They ridicule Kim Jong-Un, well, pretty much anytime he says or does anything.

Okay, so perhaps the last one is warranted - unless that sometime after writing this blog North Korea does launch a nuclear strike, and they do reach the US - but for now, ridicule away. The point is I'm prepared to have a bucket load of scorn poured on a similarly outlandish statement: Sunderland have a football match this weekend!

No, honestly, it's true.

Paolo Di Canio's first match in charge sees Sunderland head to Stamford Bridge without a win in their last seven games.

They're missing their captain, Lee Cattermole, and their top scorer Steven Fletcher. On form they're the second worst side in the league, on a relentless slide towards relegation.

It would be unfair to say the majority of players have been underperforming this term, but only because that would suggest they've been performing at all.

Adam Johnson has come in for particular criticism, which is understandable given his price tag, but in actual fact those who should escape it are few and far between: add Danny Rose and Simon Mignolet to Cattermole and Fletcher, and that's probably it.

The defence is slow, the midfield weak and the strikers practically non-existent.

There will be a few questions for the new boss to answer with regards to the make-up of his team, although it's unlikely to differ too far to that of his predecessor in terms of personnel.

Johnson is all but guaranteed to start, as is Stephane Sessegnon, and it'll be interesting to see how those, amongst others, react to Di Canio's persona and intense training methods.

He has, encouragingly, outlined an attacking intent, although that's easier said than done, especially against a side with the quality of Chelsea.

While stating that he would look to attack, he did also mention that he won't be changing the system drastically as the players are used to it. Considering the central midfield has been dire this season, it will be a difficult balance to achieve between attacking and not leaving them and the defence exposed, something Martin O'Neill ultimately failed to do; the result was mostly poor defending and non-existent attacking.

The former Swindon boss has seven games in charge, and while it'd be unfair to judge him on those, the six after this weekend should at least give an indication of the sort of manager he'll be, and where certain players stand.

For now, though, the concern is John O'Shea et al facing up to the likes of Juan Mata, Oscar and Eden Hazard.

Perhaps Di Canio may be open to talking politics instead after all...