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Is a title challenge possible for Man Utd?

Manchester United
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Arsene Wenger's hidden gem

Arsenal
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By ESPN Staff

Chelsea shock on the cards, warns McCarthy

Mick McCarthy believes rock-bottom Sunderland are capable of producing the shock of the season by beating Premiership leaders Chelsea at the Stadium of Light on Sunday.

The Black Cats may be hopelessly adrift of their relegation rivals but there is no question of McCarthy giving up the fight until it is mathematical impossible to beat the drop.

His side have won only one league game all season - the derby at Middlesbrough three months ago - and current form suggests that elusive first home win is not close.

'Results have not backed up the performances we have produced over the last few games,' said McCarthy. 'Performances have been good and the attitude has been excellent and if we work as hard as we have done, it might be us who beats Chelsea.

'At some stage Chelsea will lose. It might be us, it might not, but it won't be for the want of trying. When we won promotion at the end of last season and the fixtures came out, this is the sort of fixture we talked about.

'This is why we were so excited about the Premiership. That hasn't changed. We were on a hiding to nothing last week when we played Northwich Victoria in the FA Cup when we couldn't win anything except the game, which we did.

'We did our job but this weekend is somewhat different. Last week there were 97 places between us and Northwich, this week there are 19 places between us and Chelsea, but it was a good feeling to win.

'It's amazing what a win does. It lifts the place no matter who the opposition is. We have a good home record against Chelsea but it's this year that matters.'

McCarthy accepts there is also a massive gap between the clubs in the transfer market and while there appears to be no end to Chelsea's spending spree, he has to make do with scrapping around for loan deals and bargain buys.

'There is no question in terms of the resources they have but what is great about my set of lads is every week what ever the opposition they have a go. Like last week against Northwich Victoria they approached the game in the same way.

'We are having a look around to see what business we can do but nothing is happening. We will just try to move things along.'

McCarthy meanwhile has welcomed the impending appointment of Steve Staunton to succeed Brian Kerr as manager of the Republic of Ireland and the supporting role of Sir Bobby Robson.

Staunton was one of the senior players to back McCarthy in the infamous bust-up with Roy Keane prior to the 2002 World Cup finals in South Korea and Japan and should benefit from Robson's wealth of experience.

'I am delighted for `Stan' (Steve Staunton),' he said. 'I don't know where the contact between Bobby and he came from but Bobby has been a fantastic manager and I am sure `Stan' will benefit from that.

'Steve brings all the things to the table that Irish fans and players will appreciate. He knows the system inside out and what it will take to get the Irish team going again to get results.

'What Steve lacks a bit in management then I am sure he has got the perfect man to help him. I hope it works for them because I like them both personally.'