St. James’ Park, Newcastle
February 2, 2013; 15:00 GMT
Newcastle United will welcome Chelsea to St. James’ Park on Saturday, with both teams looking to shake off the poor run of form they are in and register a win. In their last five games, Chelsea have won once while drawing the rest including the highly disappointing game against Reading on Wednesday, while Newcastle has also secured just a solitary win against Aston Villa and lost thrice.
Chelsea, under Rafa Benitez, have been abysmal lately, with both players and management appearing directionless with alarming regularity. They have drawn games that should have been won, while draws have yielded to defeats. The Londoners are presently 13 points behind league leaders Manchester United and the best they are to get out of this season is a second-placed finish, if they are able to rally around and finish the season strongly.
Similarly, Newcastle United are far from the team that significantly overachieved under Alan Pardew last season, and will bet on new signings to infuse life into their otherwise disappointing campaign wherein they have lost 10 of their last 14 encounters and lie 15th in the table. The victory against Aston Villa was their first away win in 18 attempts this season and Pardew will hope that his team can secure a similar result against Chelsea at home, where they’ve registered five wins out of 12 league games this season.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Newcastle will be without Hatem Ben Arfa (hamstring) and Ryan Taylor (knee) for the game against Chelsea and will have to rely on their new French signings to add depth to their squad.
In a 4-2-3-1 formation, Pardew is expected to field a back-five of Krul, Santon at left-back, Coloccini and new signing Yanga-Mbiwa in the centre of defence, and Debuchy at right-back. Cabaye, who scored against Aston Villa on his return from injury, will partner Perch in a deep midfield role, operating behind yet another new signing in Sissoko, who’d be flanked by Gutierrez and Gouffran.
Papiss Cisse will lead the attack for the Magpies. Cisse scored in the last game but has failed to recapture his form of last season; Pardew will hope that the goal against Villa will reignite his misfiring striker.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1): Krul; Debuchy, Coloccini, Yanga-Mbiwa, Santon; Perch, Cabaye; Gutierrez, Sissoko, Gouffran; Cisse
Eden Hazard will serve the second of his three match ban that he earned in the Capital One game against Swansea, while Petr Cech is expected to remain sidelined due to a calf injury. Juan Mata injured his ankle against Reading and will face a late scan, but in the absence of Hazard, a lot rests on the influential Spaniard and he will take the field in all likelihood. Mikel and Moses are unavailable because of the on-going African Cup of Nations.
Rafa Benitez will deploy a tried-and-tested 4-2-3-1 formation, with Turnbull between the posts, behind Azpilicueta, Cahill, Ivanovic and Cole. Lampard, who scored his 196th goal for Chelsea against Reading, will feature in the pivot alongside Ramirez. In the absence of Hazard, Ryan Bertrand is expected to continue on the left flank, while Oscar might be deployed on the opposite flank to maintain balance and support Juan Mata, who would play behind former Newcastle striker Demba Ba.
Newcastle are vulnerable defensively as their new signings are still not accustomed to life in the English league, and Chelsea should look to hurt them with quite a few balls through the middle. The absence of Hazard will deprive Chelsea of some direct attacking football, as they’d be without a player capable of taking the defence head-on and beating them en route to goal, so the Blues will rely on quick exchanges between Oscar and Mata and on the finishing ability of Ba to secure a win.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1): Turnbull; Azpilicueta, Cahill, Ivanovic, Cole; Lampard, Ramires; Bertrand, Mata, Oscar; Ba
- Chelsea have kept a clean sheet in five of their last six away matches against Newcastle United in all competitions.
- There have been over 2.5 goals scored in six of Chelsea’s last seven away games in the Premier League.
- There have been over 2.5 goals scored in five of Newcastle United’s last six home games in the Premier League.
- Chelsea have scored at least 2 goals in their last four matches in the Premier League.
Player To Watch Out For
Demba Ba (Chelsea)
Demba Ba will return to St. James’ Park to play against his previous employers for the first time since making a move to West London, and with Chelsea clearly struggling to win games, all eyes will be on the striker to influence the proceedings. Ba has already scored three goals in his brief Chelsea career and will look to add to his tally come Saturday.
Newcastle United 1-1 Chelsea
Considering the kind of form both clubs are in, it’s hard to look beyond a draw. However, Rafa Benitez and Alan Pardew are under pressure to deliver a positive result and get their respective clubs back on track, so there exists possibility of a result, but the game definitely wouldn’t be a one-sided affair. Chelsea do have a good record at the venue, having not lost their last six matches in the north-east of England.
Blast From The Past