November 27, 2014

It's anybody's guess which of the three sides separated by one point have the advantage in a wild Premier League relegation scrap.

Sam Allardyce's Sunderland have three matches left to try to ensure a ninth straight top-flight campaign, starting with a difficult visit from deposed champions Chelsea at the Stadium of Light on Saturday.

Newcastle United are currently safe in 17th place with 33 points with just two fixtures left, though one is versus relegated Aston Villa this weekend. Sunderland are 18th on 32 with three fixtures left with Norwich City on 31 with three remaining.

Only one among Sunderland, Newcastle and Norwich will remain in the Premier League.

"A massive week as we're all aware the huge responsibility that we have to try and achieve more points obviously than Newcastle and Norwich and three games to do it in and no real margin for error," Allardyce said. "So it starts with Chelsea and we hope we can put out our top form and try and win the game."

The Black Cats (7-11-17) had dropped nine straight at home versus the Blues until a scoreless draw last season. They have lost those nine and drawn twice in Chelsea's previous 11 visits since a 1-0 victory in 2000-01.

There may not be much motivation for Chelsea as the club awaits Antonio Conte to take charge and restore the Blues to past glory. They were sufficiently motivated Monday while battling back from two goals down at halftime for a 2-2 draw at home against Tottenham Hotspur that eliminated their London rivals from title contention and handed Leicester City the crown.

It was an emotional night at the Bridge for Chelsea, with Blues players boasting beforehand they would not allow Spurs to win the title with tensions boiling over in the tunnel after the final whistle of a match in which 12 yellow cards were issued.

"It was a fantastic second half and I think everyone enjoyed it," midfielder Cesc Fabregas told Chelsea's official website.

"It is a little bit how our season has gone really - first half not too good and then when things don't go that well it is like a wake-up call and we start performing. It is a shame because I believe we have a lot of quality in this team and we can do much better."

There is talk about how motivated Guus Hiddink's side will be for the remainder of the campaign, although Allardyce is wary after the Blues scored three goals in the first 50 minutes of a 3-1 home victory in the reverse fixture Dec. 19.

"Even though they've had a poor season, we all know the size of Chelsea's players and we saw their high-quality performance in the week against Tottenham so we've got a very, very tough game on our hands to win at home but we can do it if we have our top form and we get a bit of fortune," Allardyce said.

Sunderland haven't exactly enjoyed any home comforts, failing to score in their last three matches at the Stadium of Light on 49 total attempts. Their 17 goals at home are second-joint lowest with Crystal Palace and ahead of only Aston Villa (14).

"It's remarkable we haven't scored in those three games based on the amount of chances we've created," Allardyce said.

Jermain Defoe exemplifies those woes by scoring in his last four away matches with no goals in his last seven at home.

Hiddink may rotate Chelsea after he omitted Eden Hazard and Baba Rahman from his starting XI on Monday after a 4-1 rout of Bournemouth on April 23. Hazard was influential in Monday's draw after his introduction for the second half.

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