St. James’ Park, Newcastle
November 28, 2010, 6:55 PM IST
Carlo Ancelotti, will look to banish the memories of the worst 2 weeks of his tenure thus far as manager of the West London side, when his wards head over to St. James’ Park. The Blues’, ravaged by injuries to key players and boardroom intrigue, have seen their hitherto comfortable lead evaporate as a tenacious United side have gradually climbed up the standings.
Complicating Ancelotti’s desire to make a clean break with the past, will be instability rocking the club after the sudden dismissal of second-in-command Ray Wilkins – a move that might see the Englishman pursue legal action against his former employers. The Blues’ have seen their failings, mostly in the form of their supporting players, come to the fore, front and centre with rivals teams showing little fear of the defending champions.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Chelsea will be without icons John Terry, Frank Lampard and Michael Essien – a massive blow to the champions – and will have to look at their less-than-capable replacements for some respite. The front line looks promising, with Kalou and Anelka expected to partner Didier Drogba up front.
The missing general – where art thou, Frank?
The midfield can be expected to feature the lacklustre Ramires, considering Ancelotti’s been known to keep the faith. Mikel will lend a reliable touch as defensive midfielder, and Malouda will drop into the left-side of midfield to make up for Zhirkov’s probable absence.
Bosingwa who is approaching full match fitness, might take his place along with a reasonably solid defensive line comprising Ashley Cole, Alex and Ivanovic. With crowd-favourite McEachran on the bench, Ancelotti will be hard-pressed to deny the young lad his opportunities.
Probable starting line-up: Cech, Cole, Alex, Ivanovic, Bosingwa, Malouda, Mikel, Ramires, Kalou, Drogba, Anelka
Newcastle will almost certainly have to rely on a 4-4-2, but look especially weak with the absence of Joey Barton. Adding to Chris Hughton woes, will be the fact that his team will miss the services of central defensive pairing Mike Williamson and Fabricio Coloccini. The former is serving a three match ban, while the latter saw red after an especially torrid time against Bolton.
It seems likely Sol Campbell might get to start his first game for the Magpies, though that is little consolation for Hughton. The Magpies will be hoping they can rely on the likes of Tiote and Gutierrez to strangle Chelsea’s weakened midfield.
Probable starting line-up: Krul, Simpson, Kadar, Campbell, Enrique, Guthrie, Nolan, Tiote, Gutierrez, Ameobi, Carroll
1) Chelsea have not been beaten by a newly promoted side since 2001, and although Newcastle are of Premier League pedigree, The Blues will be looking to keep at least one record intact this season.
2) Kevin Nolan is urging his manager to line up the team in an attacking 4-4-2, and claims that even a 4-0 loss after employing an aggressive outlook would be no cause for shame.
TheHardTackle’s PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR
Didier Drogba (Chelsea) and Shola Ameobi (Newcastle): There are two players to watch out for, with little to choose between them. One is Didier Drogba who needs to deliver at St. James’ Park in the absence of the other Chelsea stalwarts. Aiding his cause, will be the presence of a relatively untested central defensive pairing that the Ivorian would relish toying with. Sol Campbell might be a welcome addition to that defense, but he is clearly past his prime and he’ll need to play out of his skin to ensure Newcastle do not concede.
The other is Shola Ameobi, architect of the brace that sank a youthful Chelsea side in the Carling Cup. At 28, and with the tumultuous past well behind him, Ameobi is hell bent on ensuring his return to the club will be more than just a footnote in its history.
Newcastle 1-2 Chelsea
Chelsea FC have the strength and the quality in their side, weakened as it is, to emerge victorious at St. James’ Park. Newcastle United’s backline are susceptible and all indications point to them attacking from the very first blow of the whistle, to keep the champions at bay. Chelsea will eke out a narrow victory against the Magpies, and will be disappointed with anything else.
The last time these two sides met in the Premier League, the games ended 0-0 and 2-0 in favor of the Blues. Goals galore it might not be, but every indication points to two considerably weakened teams fancying their chances against the other.
TheHardTackle’s BLAST FROM THE PAST
Both these teams met recently in the Carling Cup encounter held at Stamford Bridge, which saw Ancelotti field a young side. It looked like normal service, as Van Aanholt scored the opener to put the hosts ahead. Newcastle turned it around, with three goals from Ranger, Taylor and Ameobi but an inspired performance from substitute Josh McEachran and Anelka brought the Blues level. Ameobi would put the tie to rest, with a super header in the dying minutes to conjure up an unlikely victory.