PL2 preview: Building momentum

From the South Coast to the north-east, our development squad conclude a busy period of three games in nine days with a PL2 visit to Sunderland this lunchtime (Sunday). Here, the official Chelsea website previews the contest…

 

The background

It is ninth against 10th in Premier League 2 Division One as Joe Edwards and our development squad head north for their 14th league outing of the campaign. With the bottom two facing relegation to the second tier, both the Black Cats and the Blues will be eyeing maximum points in order to establish some distance between themselves and the drop zone.

While Edwards has urged more from his youngsters in the final third, Sunderland are the joint-lowest scorers in the league with 11 netted in 14 matches – the visitors have scored 16 in 13 played. Four of those combined 27 goals came in a 2-2 draw between the sides at Aldershot back in September, in which home defenders Reece James and Josh Grant scored to overturn a 1-0 deficit before Thomas Beadling struck to ensure a share of the spoils.

The Blues have not won away at Sunderland since April 2013 in the inaugural Under-21 Premier League campaign.

HIGHLIGHTS: Sunderland (H) PL2 17/18

The form

Despite falling to defeat in their last league outing away at Swansea, Edwards’s side have won four of their past five matches in all competitions, including an impressive 2-1 victory at Fratton Park in the Checkatrade Trophy earlier in the week.

Sunderland exited that competition at the group stage having not won a game and were winless since October before claiming three PL2 points against Derby County last weekend, a result that saw them elevate out of the bottom two.

Last five games - all competitions

Won Drawn Lost Scored Conceded

Chelsea

4

0

1

12

6

Sunderland

1

2

2

3

7

View from the dressing room

Harvey St Clair has been in all sorts of situations during his 10 years as a player in the Chelsea Academy, though not many campaigns will have been as collectively testing as 2017/18 for the 19-year-old and his largely long-time teammates.

The forward signed as an Under-8 and was part of a Treble-winning season with the youth team last term, though a step up to development squad football has brought plenty of challenges. St Clair believes the margins are much finer as you progress through the development pathway and feels the team have narrowly been on the wrong side of results on a number of occasions this season, often following below-par displays in attack.

‘We’ve had a lot of tough games and in every one the result can go either way so we have to battle every week,’ he tells the official Chelsea website as we look ahead to the trip to Sunderland. ‘You don’t get as many chances in Premier League 2 compared to Under-18s football so you have to take the ones you do create because if you don’t, you won’t get the results that you want. 

‘We’re working hard every day to improve in the final third because we know we need to be more clinical. I’m sure if we keep doing that and playing well then we’ll get the goals we need.’

The Scotland youth international expects another imposing challenge against the side who finished runners-up in the Under-21 Premier League two seasons ago.

‘Sunderland are a tough, physical team so we’re expecting a lot of long balls which we need to deal with and also win the second balls,’ he continues. ‘In these type of games, it’s so important that we match their work-rate and even work harder than our opposition. It’s good when you have a midweek game and get a good result because it improves the team’s confidence and hopefully we can build some momentum now.’

 

How to watch

Supporters in the area can purchase tickets on the door at Eppleton Colliery Welfare priced at £3 for adults and £1 for concessions. There will also be updates throughout the afternoon on our official Twitter @chelseafc