Premier League: Chelsea vs. Sunderland

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Premier League leaders Chelsea take on Sunderland this afternoon without Didier Drogba, Michael Essien, Salomon Kalou and John Obi Mikel, who are all on international duty in the African Nations Cup.

The Blues will also be without Deco, who has recuperated from his hamstring injury but is not yet match-fit. The 32-year-old attacking midfielder is expected to return for the FA Cup fourth round encounter against Preston next week.

However, Nicolas Anelka returns after a hamstring strain, and the last time the French striker faced Sunderland, he scored a hat- trick.

The West Londoners will try to maintain their top-of-the-table position as well as their unbeaten home record against the Black Cats. Chelsea currently holds a one-point lead over Manchester United and a three-point advantage on Arsenal.

Sunderland, in contrast, is 11th in the Premier League with 23 points from a possible 60 and a goal difference of -3.

Like Carlo Ancelotti’s side, the Black Cats haven’t played in almost two weeks—with the bad weather conditions creating mess for games up and down England.

The match kicks-off at 15:00 UK (10:00 a.m. ET) at Stamford Bridge, West London.

UPDATE: The Blues maintained their lead at the top of the EPL with a superb demolition of Sunderland. A brace apiece for Anelka and Frank Lampard saw Chelsea beat the Black Cats 7-2.