Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Blues Still World Class - Fletcher; Blues Still World-Class Opponents, Warns Fletcher

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Blues Still World Class - Fletcher; Blues Still World-Class Opponents, Warns Fletcher

Article excerpt

Byline: Steve Brown

STEVEN Fletcher insists Saturday's trip to Chelsea constitutes a yardstick Sunderland are relishing.

But despite progress under Sam Allardyce and although the Black Cats are more accustomed than the Blues to the "situation" both clubs find themselves in, the Scottish striker has warned his team-mates not to underestimate what remains a "world-class team".

The Wearsiders - who sources in France claim have agreed a fee with Lorient to sign 27-year-old Ivory Coast international centre-back Lamine Kone in January - travel to Stamford Bridge second bottom of the Premier League.

More surprisingly, its champions stand in 16th place, three points ahead and just one above the relegation zone.

They last met on the final day of last season, with Chelsea having won the title and Sunderland already safe Turn to Page 49 FROM BACK PAGE from relegation. It will be less "relaxed" come Saturday, says Fletcher, "grateful" to again be playing "week in, week out".

Jose Mourinho is understood to be under mounting pressure after nine defeats in 16 league games - one fewer than Sunderland - and continued talk of unrest amongst his squad.

And Fletcher says that while a positive gameplan is a must and that luck would be a welcome addition, his side - who face Manchester City and Liverpool thereafter - must start taking their goalscoring opportunities or risk further punishment. "You've got to play the big teams at some point, so why not play them all one after the other?" he said.

"It'll be a good test for us (at Chelsea), to see where we're at. We've come on a lot since the gaffer's come in so it'll be a great test for us to see where we're at. It'll be good.

"It's always a big game, it's always good for us going down there. I scored last time I was there, so it was nice. …

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