Stamford Bridge, West London
May 15, 2011; 17:55 IST
This Sunday, Carlo Ancelotti will lead his team out to face Newcastle amidst unjustified but relentless pressure. The media has already written his obituary, and various managers have already been paraded before the keen eyes of Roman Abramovich. Still, there are a couple of games left for Chelsea before the season draws to a close. Few players will be eager to show their worth so that they are retained at the club, while as this is the last home game of the campaign, the manager and his team would look to secure the 2nd place with a win, thereby giving joy to their supporters.
Newcastle have had a eventful return season. The Magpies have given the top clubs a run for their money, with wins over Arsenal at The Emirates, and a Carling Cup triumph over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge being the highlights. They delivered a five-star performance in their derby with Sunderland, while on other occasions they have displayed the kind of capitulation one expects from newly-promoted sides. Newcastle, unexpectedly, fired manager Chris Hughton midway through the season and replaced him with Alan Pardew, and also sold their most prized possession, Andy Carroll, to Liverpool. Their fans would be reasonably satisfied with an 11th position in the table with just two games to go. However, without the self-induced instability and reoccurring injures, Newcastle United could have done better. Nevertheless, it was good to have a club as good as theirs back in the Premiership.
Chelsea no longer have a league title to win after the defeat at Old Trafford and Newcastle are not really embroiled in a relegation battle, ergo, this is not a must-win game for either of the two teams – something which makes this match all the more unpredictable.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Out of the last eight league games, The Blues have won 6 and lost just once. It was this late resurgence that saw them bounce right back into the title race out of nowhere. For this game, Carlo has almost the entire squad to chose from with inconsistent Bosingwa and young Bertrand being the only absentees. The team will have a very familiar look to it, as the Chelsea Reserves have a game of their own – The Final against Blackburn Rovers on Monday. However, Ancelotti will make a few changes to the starting line-up. Fernando Torres is expected to start, while he is yet to decide as far as David Luiz is concerned. The manager honestly admitted, “I was a little bit angry with him, but he doesn’t have to be afraid about this (mistake at Old Trafford) because he is a fantastic player. He made a little mistake but this is good for him to understand better the English football and to understand better the behaviour of the defender.“
A plethora of injuries have left the Newcastle midfield thread-bare, so Carlo Ancelotti is expected to start with a three-man midfield to take advantage of the situation, with Lampard, Essien and Mikel being the likely choices. Torres is expected to start, so Ancelotti may consider giving Benayoun a few minutes on the pitch, knowing the kind of understanding the two of them have. A likely formation can be a 4-3-2-1, with Malouda and Anelka tucked in behind the centre-forward.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-3-2-1): Cech, Ivanovic, Luiz, Terry, Cole, Mikel, Lampard, Essien, Malouda, Anelka, Torres.
Newcastle sides, in the last few years, were known for the number of injuries they used to suffer over the season. This changed during Houghton’s reign, as he refrained from risking any player who wasn’t completely fit. With Pardew, the curse of the injuries has returned to haunt The Magpies. After undergoing ankle surgery, Kevin Nolan joined the already long list of casualties, which had Ben Arfa, Best, Ireland, Gosling, Harper, Guthrie, and Williamson on it.
However, all is not lost for Newcastle and they can draw inspiration from their performances against Chelsea this season. Further, if they remain disciplined over the course of 90 minutes and frustrate the home team, they can take at least a point away from this fixture, which under present circumstances would be as good as a win. In a 4-4-2 shape, Joey Barton is expected to partner Cheik Tiote in the midfield, while Ryan Taylor would in all likelihood start on the right wing. A lot would depend on how Newcastle’s two central midfielders perform against Chelsea’s three.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-4-2): Krul, Simpson, S Taylor, Coloccini, Enrique, Barton, Tiote, R Taylor, Gutiérrez, Lovenkrands, Ameobi.
TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR
Frank Lampard (Chelsea): Frank has not enjoyed a customary season, as he hasn’t scored his quota of 20 goals from midfield. Injuries did play a huge role in it, but even after regaining fitness, there have been quite a few games wherein he hasn’t been able to influence the proceedings. After a poor game against one United last weekend, Lampard will look to make amends against the other and finish the season on a positive note.
Chelsea 4-0 Newcastle
In the league, Newcastle United has just won twice in 56 years at Stamford Bridge. Things are not expected to change this weekend. This will be a game where the players will try to send out a message, a message which will be loud and clear – “We are firmly behind Carlo“. At Stamford Bridge on Sunday, Newcastle may just end up at the wrong place, at the wrong time.