Chelsea shrug off Wilkins exit
London - Carlo Ancelotti has endured one of his most troubled weeks as Chelsea manager following the dismissal of assistant manager Ray Wilkins and another injury setback for Frank Lampard.
The sacking of Wilkins - who has a 37-year connection with the club - less than six months after last season's FA Cup and Premier League double has prompted surprise and dismay.
Ancelotti confirmed the decision had been taken by the club's chief executive Ron Gourlay but declared he "respected" the decision.
The Italian will be assisted by the rest of his backroom staff for the visit of Sunderland and while no decision has been taken on the identity of Wilkins' successor, Ancelotti insists it will be an internal appointment.
"I just want to say one thing," said the Chelsea manager. "Ray was a fantastic assistant coach and I want to say thanks to him because he was fantastic support last season, this season.
"He did a fantastic job. He helped me and the team win the Double. So the first thing is to say a lot of thanks to him. He is my friend. I have a fantastic relationship with him, and I will have a fantastic relationship.
"The club made this decision. It was a difficult decision for everyone, but I have respect for this decision.
"I have trust in all the staff who are working with me, but we have to move on now. We have to look forward and focus on the next game. It will be an important season for us, and it's important to move on."
Of more pressing concern now for Ancelotti is the latest injury to Lampard, who suffered a muscle strain in training on Thursday.
The midfielder was initially sidelined because of a hernia operation before picking up a hamstring problem and will now be missing until early December.
"I think he will be out again for two or three weeks, until the start of December. We are disappointed because he was so close to coming back into training," Ancelotti said.
"It's bad news, but it's the same -- we have to move on. It would have been a fantastic moment for him to replace (the suspended Michael) Essien, a chance to put a player with experience and personality on the pitch, but we have to wait for him.
"We also have Alex out with a problem on his knee -- he'll have a consultation on Monday."
Sunderland have an abject recent record at Stamford Bridge, losing all but one of their nine visits since the start of the Premier League 18 years ago, shipping 35 goals in the process.
Their only success came with a 4-2 win in 2001, but more fresh in the memory is the 7-2 thumping they were on the wrong end of in their most recent visit in January. Since then manager Steve Bruce has moulded a side that has been more difficult to break down, as just two league defeats this season - the same as Chelsea - testifies.
The North-East club arrive in West London buoyed after fighting back to earn a point in the capital at Tottenham Hotspur in midweek thanks to a third goal in two starts from Ghanaian international forward Asamoah Gyan, the club's 13.4 million pound record signing who is starting to justify his hefty price-tag.
"Chelsea are one of the best teams in the league and we'll have to play like we did in the second half against Tottenham if we're going to get anything from the game," Michael Turner, the Sunderland defender, said.
Sunderland's eight-goal top scorer Darren Bent is likely to sit out a third consecutive match with a hamstring injury, while Bruce could again freshen things up in what is a third match in eight days, after making six changes at White Hart Lane in midweek.