GUS POYET says today is a “special day” as he prepares to thwart Chelsea for the first time as a manager.
Poyet made his name in English football at Stamford Bridge after more than 100 appearances for Chelsea during four years at the club.
But tonight’s Stadium of Light clash with Jose Mourinho’s side will be the Uruguayan’s first competitive encounter against his former club as a manager.
“It will be a special day for me,” he said.
“When I was in charge at Brighton, we had a friendly game against Chelsea when Roberto Di Matteo was manager. But that was only a friendly – this is for real.
“Before the game and after the game, there will plenty of friendship and talking, but during the game it is business.
“I hope I can enjoy that part, because if I do, it will mean we are winning!”
Chelsea’s comeback against Southampton on Sunday took Mourinho’s side to second place in the Premier League table and Poyet believes they will last the pace in the title race.
But Sunderland can boast a 100 per cent home record under Poyet’s stewardship and after beating Manchester City in their last Stadium of Light encounter, the head coach believes lightning can strike twice.
Poyet said: “It’s a very difficult game – one of the most difficult.
“Chelsea are strong, they can play one-against-one, they are good in the air, they have got pace, they have got quality.
“They are title contenders. No doubt.
“It’s a nice surprise that Arsenal are up there because for so many years everybody was waiting for them to get back to the top.
“They are there fighting and so will Chelsea, Man City and Man United as well.
“On their day, it can be practically impossible to play against them.
“But you could have said just the same things against Man City.
“No-one was expecting us to play the way we did against City in the first half, no-one would have expected us to be able to score first and then to maintain that lead and keep a clean sheet.
“The more games Man City play, and the more goals they score, the more impressive that clean sheet looks!
“We will need to show the same resilience against Chelsea tonight.”
Poyet was impressed by Chelsea’s comeback against the Saints after Mourinho’s side recovered from going behind in the opening 13 seconds to net three second half goals and emerge 3-1 winners.
“You felt for Southampton on Sunday because they were impressive,” he added. “They were strong, powerful and pressing. They were non-stop, like a machine.
“Southampton are one of the best teams in the league this season, but it was so difficult to impose their game in the second half. Chelsea have got quality all over the place and the players coming off the bench can make all the difference.”