Stepping in for Gus Poyet, Dick Advocaat certainly has his work cut out for him at Sunderland.
The Black Cats are worryingly low in the table, and the points difference are as tight at the bottom as they are at the top. Sunderland’s final two games of the season see them travel to the Emirates and then Stamford Bridge. But is it a good time to play the ‘big boys’ in the league when you’re fighting against the drop?
At this stage, Dick Advocaat’s main job is to keep Sunderland up. His side are currently 15th in the table, with seven games left to play. Most importantly, Advocaat has secured his first win, which came in the Tyne and Wear derby, with Jermain Defoe’s somewhat emotional goal making the difference against Sunderland’s arch enemy Newcastle.
But by the time Sunderland make the trip to Stamford Bridge, both sides should have nothing to play for. Chelsea will have the league wrapped up, unless by some divine miracle Arsenal’s supposed title campaign is still in full swing. Sunderland, on the other hand, should have themselves safely above the relegation zone and will be looking forward to another year in the Premier League.
The last day of the season could not be a more perfect time to visit the current league leaders. Having faced them or Arsenal earlier on could have had a detrimental effect on the already struggling Black Cats. Stamford Bridge is not an easy ground for any team to travel to. Chelsea have been head and shoulders above the rest of the vast majority of the season, and will be deserved winners of the Premier League. And really, on the last day of the season, Chelsea won’t need to put in their best shift.
Sunderland’s biggest obstacle is the first five out of their last seven games. Within the next few weeks, Advocaat’s Black Cats will be hosting Crystal Palace, which will be no easy feat considering they managed to defeat Manchester City last week. They will also be travelling to Goodison Park, who will be attempting to salvage their season after being knocked out of Europe. And they cannot underestimate Leicester City, who will be trying to claw their way out of the relegation zone.
Finishing the league at Chelsea is perfect for both sides. Given the little time Advocaat has had to make an impact on his side, the fact that both should have nothing to play for will be helpful. As it stands, Sunderland will be staying up and Advocaat can build on this for next season.