SUNDERLAND’S hopes against title favourites Manchester United and fourth-top Chelsea have perhaps been boosted by the scheduling of their FA Cup quarter-final replay.
League leaders United will travel to Stamford Bridge on Easter Monday, April 1, with a place in the final four of the competition at stake after the two sides drew 2-2 at Old Trafford last Sunday.
But the game comes just 48 hours after Sunderland host Sir Alex Ferguson’s side at the Stadium of Light, with an obvious potential for distraction for the visitors.
It is Sunderland’s trip to Chelsea though which could hand the Black Cats a fatigue advantage.
Should Chelsea advance in the Europa League last 16 against Steaua Bucharest tonight, then the meeting with the Black Cats will be moved to Sunday, April 7.
But that will be Chelsea’s fourth match in the space of nine days after a Premier League encounter with Southampton on March 30, the FA Cup quarter-final replay, a Europa League quarter-final and then the Sunderland game.
Meanwhile, the Tyne-Wear derby could also be rearranged, depending on the outcome of Newcastle’s clash against Anzhi Makhachkala tonight.
The second legs of the Europa League quarter-finals will take place on Thursday, April 11 – just two days before Sunderland’s scheduled trip to St James’s Park.
If Newcastle progress against Anzhi, then the derby will almost certainly be pushed back to Sunday, April 14.