Stamford Bridge, London
January 10, 2014; 15:00 GMT
Chelsea, fresh off having relinquished their stranglehold on the title, are now relying on alphabetical order as they sit precariously perched on the top of the table. If the idea that a rested Blues side would have renewed their hunger gives other teams an unpleasant feeling, there should be no prizes for guessing how wary Newcastle must be feeling.
For, if anything, Chelsea will approach this as a grudge match. Not only did Newcastle wreck what might have been Chelsea’s undefeated streak, it also laid the groundwork for the rot that followed: culminating in a Christmas season that ended with a 5-3 trouncing by Tottenham Hotspur. Newcastle have been a perennial thorn in the Blues’ side, having beaten them four times out of the last six encounters.
Newcastle are coming off a bad run of form that sees them stuck in tenth position with John Carver deputing as manager, after Alan Pardew was given the sack. Having lost to most of the big names, including a 4-1 mauling at the hands of Arsenal, Newcastle are a blow-hot-blow-cold team that has somehow beaten the law of averages when it comes to Chelsea. Mourinho will know anything but a statement of sheer class from his wards will see City take over pole position in the standings.
Team News & Tactical Brief
Jose Mourinho will have a full-strength side to pick his starting 11 from, and it will be a cold day in hell if he makes more than two changes from his usual line-up.
Chelsea will start the game in their 4-2-3-1 formation, with Thibaut Courtois in goal and Terry, Cahill, Ivanovic and Azpilicueta. The defense will have learned a chastening lesson from their game against the Spurs, when the high-line failed as miserably as it did when Andre Villas Boas first mooted it.
Willian will likely start the game, but could give way to his countryman Ramires if the goals don’t come quick and easy. Mourinho will undoubtedly be concerned his first team have shouldered most of the season, thanks to his unwillingness to fix something that was hitherto unbroken.
Expect Fabregas to run at Newcastle’s stretched right flank to cross balls into the danger area, while Eden Hazard works his usual brand of magic. It remains to be seen if Loic Remy will feature against his old side, and has already promised to reveal his former club’s secrets to his current manager. It may not be enough to get him to start the game, but he may get a run out on the field in the dying minutes of the game especially if Chelsea are losing.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1): Courtois; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta; Matic, Fabregas; Oscar, Hazard, Willian; Costa
Newcastle may be without a manager, and will be looking to give Carver’s credentials a massive boost. Chelsea performed better than the norm in this fixture, by running out 3-0 winners over Pardew’s men.
Colback and Janmaat will likely need to double-team Eden Hazard, to keep the Belgian quiet all day, resulting in a lack of creativity on the Toon’s right side that Chelsea could potentially exploit to deadly effect. Tim Krul will have his hands full keeping a burly center forward of the likes of Didier Drogba and Diego Costa from getting their names of the scorecard.
Santon and Sissoko will have Gouffran assisting them by dropping further back than usual, in a bid to starve Fabregas and Matic of space. The Toons are unlikely to see any relative respite through Chelsea’s benched members featuring in this game, because Mourinho will be unlikely to take chances with a game against one of Chelsea’s biggest and most frequent stumbling block.
Newcastle will however be considerably weaker with the absences of Ameobi, and Siem De Jong. The former is unlikely to return all of January, thanks to his knee injury, while the Dutchman’s thigh injury means Carver will be short of reinforcements in the one area he needs them the most: attacking midfield.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-3-3): Krul; Dummett, Coloccini, Williamson, Janmaat; Santon, Sissoko, Colback; Gouffran, Perez, Cabella
- Since beating Chelsea in early December, Newcastle have only won one other game – a narrow 3-2 win over Everton
- Newcastle have beaten Chelsea four times in their last six encounters, even though last season’s corresponding fixture ended 3-0
- Chelsea are level with City on the top of the table, with both teams matched on points, wins, losses, goals scored and conceded
Player To Watch Out For
Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
Last season, in this fixture, he scored a hat-trick with three stellar shots that left the goalkeeper rooted to his spot with no chance. A delightful 1-2 with Samuel Eto’o as well as a powerful strike coming in from the left, were only topped off by a superbly taken penalty that Lampard graciously let Hazard take in a bid to give the Belgian a much-deserved hat-trick.
He’s been in ominous form this winter break as the rest of the team fell by the wayside, and Hazard may just be the spark Chelsea’s impending revival needs.
Chelsea 3-1 Newcastle United
Expect Newcastle to begin the game on the front foot, and even test Chelsea in the first couple of minutes as the Blues look to shake off the memories of last week’s game. Chelsea will begin slowly, content to not go a goal down in the early moments of the game. Once the Blues settle in, they should begin to dictate the pace of the game roared on by a partisan crowd smarting at having seen their team lose their grip on the title. Eden Hazard and Diego Costa will get on the scoresheet, as Chelsea return to business in effective if not entirely convincing fashion.