sport

Poyet: Chelsea always strong

Sunderland boss Gus Poyet has warned his players not to expect a weakened Chelsea team in the capital One Cup semi-finals.

The relegation-haunted Black Cats face the title-chasing Blues at the Stadium of Light on Tuesday evening with a place in the last four at stake, although with wildly different Barclays Premier League aspirations dominating their thoughts.

While Jose Mourinho's men have their sights very firmly set on leaders Arsenal, Sunderland are desperate simply not to be cast adrift at the foot of the table.

Mourinho has shuffled his pack in the competition so far this season and is likely to make changes to the side which beat Crystal Palace 2-1 on Saturday, although Poyet is acutely aware that the depth of the Portuguese's squad means he will still field an impressive array of talent.

The Uruguayan said: "Look, I don't think it's going to be a weak Chelsea, I don't. I'm expecting a very strong one.

"Now, we can analyse position by position: [Cesar] Azpilicueta or Ashley Cole - what do you prefer? [Frank] Lampard or Ramires - what do you prefer? [Michael] Essien or [John Obi] Mikel - which do you prefer? [Demba] Ba or [Fernando] Torres? We can go to every position.

"I don't think there are going to be 11 new players from the weekend, I don't. If there is, well let's see if we can take advantage, but I am not expecting too many new faces."

Some of Poyet's players may breathe a sigh of relief if

Belgium international Eden Hazard is left out of the Chelsea starting line-up.

The 22-year-old was the star of the show as the Blues won 4-3 in the league on Wearside on December 4 with Poyet later describing him as "unplayable".

However, the 46-year-old, while joking he would like to ask Mourinho to leave Hazard at home, admitted he would also like to see his men have another go at keeping the mercurial former Lille man at bay.

He said: "I hope that is the only call we can make to Jose and tell him not to play him.

"But it would be nice to see him playing and us trying to sort it out and mark him well and make him not be the outstanding player that we saw a couple of weeks ago.

"That's a challenge as well for us."

For many Black Cats fans, a successful fight for top-flight survival will far out-weigh the chance of seeing their club in the semi-finals of the League Cup.

However, Poyet is hoping that progression in the cup will send them into a must-win league encounter with Norwich on Sunday with confidence renewed.

He said: "It should be normal. I said before that famous word everybody talks about - confidence.

"If it's true that that word is so important, there is no better boost for a team than beating Chelsea and getting to the semi-finals."