THE INSTANT success of Chelsea’s summer spending is not lost on Gus Poyet.
Rather than becoming embroiled in the whirlwind of agent spin, Chelsea cherry-picked two world-class talents for their starting XI and have reaped the rewards. They will walk to the Premier League title.
After the manic nature of his first two transfer windows at Sunderland, Poyet is desperate to reach the equilibrium where the Black Cats are only looking to bring in a handful of recruits who immediately improve the side.
The signings of Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas have taken Chelsea from a good side, to a superb one.
They have the legs to press relentlessly. They have the defensive solidity to sit on a lead. And. most importantly, they have the attacking potency to find the net seemingly at will.
While Sunderland have emerged victorious in their last two meetings with Jose Mourinho’s men, Chelsea are now a different beast altogether.
But how do Sunderland go about trying to thwart the league leaders?
The self-explanatory elementary point is that Poyet’s side cannot afford the schoolboy clangers practised in last month’s visit of Arsenal.
Do that, and this one will be over before it has started.
John O’Shea and Wes Brown need to be ready to physically bully Costa, presuming Mourinho’s wasn’t massaging the truth in midweek when he claimed the striker will be fit to face Sunderland after limping off in the Champions League rout in Schalke.
Lee Cattermole’s radar must be at its finest to prevent Fabregas finding those pockets of space in the Sunderland half and subsequently wreaking havoc.
And with Billy Jones only just returning to full training, Santiago Vergini has his hands full in containing Eden Hazard after the Belgian was mesmeric in last season’s corresponding fixture, won 4-3 by the Londoners.
But there is little merit in purely concentrating on defensive stability.
Chelsea will inevitably find a breakthrough if Sunderland show nil attacking ambition and comfortably hold on to that advantage.
No, the Black Cats cannot afford to be snared by the same trap as the Arsenal defeat, when they failed to produce a meaningful effort on goal.
Poyet’s side need to stretch the Chelsea defence, however stark the challenge to break the deadlock.
Sunderland failed to manage that feat at humbler opposition in the shape of Leicester last weekend, yet that doesn’t necessarily mean Poyet will tinker with his attacking ranks.
Poyet is yet to name the same side in successive games this season, but tomorrow tea-time may change that pattern.
The front three of Connor Wickham, Adam Johnson and Steven Fletcher performed well at the King Power Stadium despite the blankety blank. There were certainly signs of progress in their attempts to find some cohesion.
If the trio are struggling to make inroads, then the welcome return of Ricky Alvarez on the bench will at least give Poyet an option to genuinely enhance his attacking threat.
Perhaps there is a case for Liam Bridcutt or Jack Rodwell to take Jordi Gomez’s spot and provide an extra protective barrier in front of the back four. But the likelihood is that their fresh legs will be saved for the meetings against Manchester City and Liverpool later in the week.
Those two games arguably provide a better opportunity to add to Sunderland’s points tally.
Yet, in their last two meetings with Chelsea, Sunderland have busted a few coupons.
If they make it a hat-trick tomorrow, it will be the biggest shock of them all.
Verdict: Away win