Most managers wouldn’t dare to deviate from their proven formula in such a scenario, with Conte continuing to utilise his 3-4-3 system and rarely changing the personnel involved as his Blues boys steadily picked up wins.
But earlier this week, we asked Chelsea fans whether somewhat marginalised playmaker Cesc Fabregas should come back into the side for the visit to the Stadium of Light, ahead of a hectic winter schedule that will be particularly draining on their two-man midfield.
Well, the Blues faithful gave the notion a resounding yes and Conte duly obliged, picking the Spaniard over Nemanja Matic to start against the Black Cats.
Needless to say, the tactical gamble certainly paid off, with Fabregas scoring the only goal of the game to seal yet another impressive win for the west Londoners – who are now six points clear at the top of the table.
But regardless of his winning strike, the 29-year-old was the most influential player on the pitch, registering the most touches, most passes and most created chances of anybody for either team throughout the 90 minutes.
Will that land Cesc a permanent place in the Chelsea starting XI? We’ll have to wait and see.