Chelsea will be looking to keep up the pressure at the top of the table as they travel to Sunderland on Wednesday evening.
Jose Mourinho's side (8-3-2) go into the latest round of fixtures just four points behind league leaders Arsenal, thanks to a run of just one defeat in nine Premier League games. The improvement of the Blues will be an ominous sight for the rest of the league, but Mourinho is aware Chelsea still have plenty of developing to do before they reach their full potential.
"If you are 10 or 12 points behind you are building but you are not fighting for the title, if you are three, four or five you are building evolution but fighting for the title," said the Portuguese manager. "One of the things these boys have to learn is to cope with the responsibility of being there. We cannot be 15 points behind by December we have to be there.
"Now we have two matches away and after that we play Crystal Palace at home. We are playing against three teams which need points because of the positions they have and we are going to have three very difficult matches."
Sunderland (2-2-9) have picked up seven points in five games under new manager Gus Poyet, but remain five points from safety after the club's miserable start under Paolo di Canio. A 0-0 draw with Aston Villa at the weekend prompted some criticism from the fans over the style of football that the Black Cats have been playing in recent weeks, but Poyet insisted the deliberate pace will remain as long as he is at the club.
"I know some people say the way we play is slow," said the former Chelsea and Tottenham player. "I apologise for that, if you want, but it is our way. We need to play and maintain the pace of the game that we want, not the way the opposition wants. Sometimes it is slow, but it is a step for the players - we will play quicker when we get better, when we are in a better situation. It is our way of playing. I don't know if you can say it is good or bad, it is just a way of playing.
"We could enjoy our Saturday night because of the performance and result against Villa, but on Sunday we were already looking ahead to the Chelsea game."
Sunderland have injury doubts over John O'Shea (groin), Kieren Westwood (shoulder) and Carlos Cuellar (hip), while Chelsea have concerns over the fitness of Oscar (ankle), Samuel Eto'o (hamstring) and David Luiz (knee).
Chelsea have won all but one of their last 17 meetings with Sunderland, whose lone win in that span was a 3-0 shock scoreline at Stamford Bridge in 2010. In those wins, the Blues have outscored the Black Cats 46-12. However, Chelsea have struggled for goals away from home in the Premier League since the Mourinho's return, managing just seven in six road games this season - the lowest tally in the top six. Sunderland have struggled for goals at home themselves, managing just six in six games at the Stadium of Light.
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