Chelsea-Hull City Preview
Hull City's mini-revival will be put to the test Sunday when they welcome title-chasing Chelsea to the KC Stadium.
The Tigers (6-10-13) have pulled three points clear of the relegation places after suffering just one defeat in six matches (2-3-1) since the start of February.
Hull secured a point with a goalless draw at last-place Leicester City last weekend after having midfielder Tom Huddlestone sent off on 72 minutes.
Tigers boss Steve Bruce, who signed a contract extension with the club last week, hailed his team's recent improvement.
"Over the last six weeks we've been more like ourselves again," Bruce told his club's website. "We've defended fantastically well and we've got a base and a platform that I'm used to seeing.
"We've also got a few players coming back as well which will add to the competition for places. We're in a far healthier place than we were six weeks ago and we've given ourselves some life. We're doing everything we can to stay in this league."
The Blues (19-7-2) are six points clear of second-place Manchester City and have a game in hand.
The Londoners extended their unbeaten run to eight top-flight matches with a 1-1 draw versus Southampton at Stamford Bridge last weekend. Striker Diego Costa gave the Blues the lead after just 11 minutes with his 18th league goal of the season, but the Saints drew level just eight minutes later when Dusan Tadic scored from the penalty spot. Chelsea pressed hard for a winner but were thwarted by a string of superb saves form Southampton 'keeper Fraser Forster.
Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho expressed delight with his table-topping club's lead but admits there are some tough matches to negotiate before the end of the season.
The Blues have still to play Manchester United and Liverpool at home and Arsenal away among their remaining nine fixtures.
"We are in front and the advantage is not half a body, the advantage is significant but it is still a long way to go," Mourinho told his club's website. "We are there, we are strong, we are confident and we believe in our capacity to stay there until the last match, and the best way to fight against complacency is to know there is a long way to go and there are difficult matches and difficult opponents.
"We have been chased since day one, not just in the last couple of weeks so this has become something normal for us, to know we are top of the league but to know the others are behind us. They are good teams, they have ambitions and don't let us enjoy an easy ride."
Hull striker Nikica Jelavic has been ruled out for at least six weeks after under going knee surgery, while Huddlestone is suspended after seeing red at Leicester. Meanwhile, Robbie Brady, Mo Diame and James Chester all returned to training this week.
Chelsea will be without John Obi Mikel (knee) again, but otherwise Mourinho has a fully fit squad available.
The Blues beat 10-man Hull 2-0 at Stamford Bridge on Dec. 13 in the reverse league fixture. Eden Hazard and Costa scored for Chelsea as that man Huddlestone was sent off on the hour mark.
Chelsea did the double over the Tigers last season with both matches again finishing 2-0 in favour of the Blues.
The Londoners have never lost to Hull in a Premier League match - winning five and drawing two and running up a 12-2 aggregate. Chelsea carry a 330-minute shutout streak against the Tigers in league play into this match.