STEVE Bruce says he has not lost sight of the fact that – in a frantic week of transfer talks – a massive game for Sunderland lies just days away.
The Black Cats face the Blues on Tuesday night and the Sunderland manager insists Chelsea’s visit remains very much at the forefront of his mind.
He told the Echo: “All people have wanted to talk about this week is transfers and I can understand that – that’s what you get with the January transfer window, particularly when it starts coming to the end of it.
“It dominates the media and it seems to be the only thing that’s going on in football.
“But I leave a lot of that work to the chairman and chief executive and their team and try to concentrate on the football as much as possible.
“You have to, because we’ve got the Chelsea game just around the corner and that’s a big, big game for us.
“It begins a run of games over the next couple of months which is going to test us to the limit and in which we’ll find out what we’re made of, so hopefully we can get that run off to a good start on Tuesday.”
Bruce could have Stephane Sessegnon and Sulley Muntari available to him if the midfielders sign in time, but for the moment he is making his plans without factoring in new signings.
“You can’t work like that,” he said. “You can’t make plans for someone who may or may not come in.
“If we get someone in, then great, but we’ll be making our plans with the players we have, the players who did so well at Blackpool last week.”
Sunderland’s deserved 3-0 win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge back in November was undoubtedly the highlight of the Black Cats’ season so far.
But Bruce knows the Premier League champions will not be found wanting when the two teams meet again.
“The game down at there place was amazing,” he said.
“I think it could well have been the best team performance I’ve ever been involved in as a manager and it started off a really bad run for them.
“By their standards they had a really poor run of form – I think someone said it was their worst sequence of results in well over a decade – but they’ve turned that around again now.
“They’ve won their last three games, scored 13 goals and conceded none and they’ll be looking to come here continuing that run. I watched them beat Bolton 4-0 and I thought to myself: ‘Yep. Chelsea are back.’
“They’re back to the Chelsea you expect and the one thing I know is that unless my players are bang on their game, like they were at Stamford Bridge, then it could be a long night for us.
“The one thing I’ll be asking of my players is that they produce a performance.
“We can’t guarantee a good result, but hopefully we can guarantee a good performance and if we can do that, then I’ll be happy to accept whatever the night brings.”