PHIL Bardsley says there will be no fear factor when Sunderland try to continue their strong run under Martin O’Neill with a trip to Chelsea this weekend.
The Black Cats have won five and lost only one of the seven games since O’Neill succeeded Steve Bruce at the Stadium of Light.
Sunderland head to faltering Chelsea on Saturday with memories of last season’s stunning 3-0 victory at Stamford Bridge inevitably resurfacing.
That win sparked a year-long wait for another success against one of the Premier League’s heavyweights, with victory finally arriving on New Year’s Day against league leaders Manchester City.
But with Chelsea 11 points adrift of the summit and Sunderland buoyant, Bardsley sees no barrier towards O’Neill’s men continuing their five-game unbeaten run.
He said: “In the last few years, Stamford Bridge is a place people have really feared,” added the 26-year-old, who was in the starting line-up in the November 2010 success against the then league leaders Chelsea.
“But this season and towards the end of last year, I don’t think they’re the team they were.
“I still think they’re a massive team, big and strong, but we go there without any fear.
“There’s a bit of transformation there and if we keep doing what we have been doing, we’ve got a great chance.
“Last season was fantastic there with the 3-0 win.
“We’ve got the confidence from beating Man City, but it’s a different kettle of fish away from home.
“We have to be on top form again and keep producing performances like we have been doing.”
Bardsley returned to the starting line-up in Sunday’s FA Cup third round success at Peterborough after an accumulation of injuries ruled him out of Sunderland’s first back-to-back wins in a year.
The full-back had been struggling for a number of weeks with an ankle injury first sustained in November’s defeat to Wigan and the knocks finally caught up with him when he suffered a thigh muscle tear in Boxing Day’s draw with Everton.
But Bardsley insists he is back to full fitness now and admits no one in Sunderland’s squad wants to miss out after a run of four wins out of five under Martin O’Neill.
Bardsley told the Echo: “I pulled my thigh with a grade one tear against Everton and it kept me out for 10 days.
“It was disappointing for me because I missed a couple of good games with Man City and Wigan away.
“But it’s part and parcel of playing a lot of football. Sometimes it catches up with you.
“I’d had a few niggles, but the thigh was the big one after probably eating too much turkey on Christmas Day!
“I felt fresh at Peterborough, back to my best and I’m enjoying being part of a team who want to win football matches.
“Even if the manager had left me on the bench at Peterborough, I’d have fully understood.
“But he showed faith in me, put me back in and hopefully I’ve paid him back with a decent performance.”