Sunderland v Chelsea: Echo jury, Keith Appleton

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MANY Premiership teams often use this competition as an opportunity to blood fringe players. However, for Sunderland matches in the final stages of any cup competition are as rare as hens’ teeth (our last semi-final was 14 years ago) and must therefore be taken seriously.

I don’t agree that this is a distraction from our key challenge of maintaining our Premier League status, despite the recent relegations of Wigan and Birmingham following their respective cup successes.

But Poyet does have some selection dilemmas; such as does he risk Brown or rest him for the weekend league game against Norwich? Other than that, I’m expecting few changes in the team that started against West Ham; but Dossena, Johnson, Gardner and Fletcher warrant serious consideration.

As a manager, Mourinho has amazingly won a trophy every season and this is not a competition that would usually interest him.

However, following Chelsea’s poor league performances against Stoke and Palace, he will view this as his best opportunity to maintain his impressive record of success and will thus field a strong side. It could be a close game and I don’t rule out extra-time, but I fear Chelsea will have too much quality.

Prediction: Sunderland 1 Chelsea 3