St.James’ Park, Newcastle
Saturday 26th September 2015, 1730 GMT
A struggling Newcastle United host Premier League champions Chelsea at St James’ Park on Saturday, hoping to get their first win of the 2015-2016 season under new manager Steve McLaren
Former England national team manager Steve McLaren could not possibly have imagined that the start he would make at Newcastle United would be as bad as it has been. The Magpies have drawn two and lost four of their opening six Premier League games, and have only been saved from the ignominy of being bottom of the table by arch rivals Sunderland, whose fate has been similar.
McLaren’s men now take on Chelsea FC at St.James’ Park on Saturday, a venue Blues’ boss Jos Mourinho has famously never taken three points from. It could prove to be the sort of game that sparks Newcastle’s season to life, and the Magpies will aim to continue Mourinho’s miserable run at their famous stadium.
Chelsea FC, meanwhile, have shown signs of getting their season back on track, with three wins on the trot in as many competitions. The Blues have scored 10 goals in their last 3 games and let in 1, and even if the opposition hasn’t always been top-quality, the positive run will lift morale all the same. The Blues will go into the game aiming to continue their good form, and hoping to get a first win at St James’ Park with Mourinho as manager.
Team News and Tactics
Steve McLaren has no major injury worries ahead of the Chelsea FC clash, and will be able to welcome back Serbian striker Aleksandar Mitrovi , who has finished serving his three-match suspension for the red card he picked up against Arsenal FC earlier in the season.
McLaren is likely to continue with a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Jack Colback and Vurnon Anita in the midfield double-pivot, and Moussa Sissoko, Georginio Wijnaldum and Florian Thauvin behind the striker in the attacking midfield roles.
Dutch midfielder Vurnon Anita was left out of the starting line-up in the Magpies’ previous game at home to Watford, but McLaren is unlikely to be as bold when he comes up against Mourinho’s men. A workhorse Newcastle United midfield of Anita and Colback, ably supported by Sissoko and Wijlandum, will be needed to stifle a Chelsea FC attack that is growing in confidence over the last few games.
Daryl Janmaat has been a major attacking threat for Newcastle from right-back, and will once again look to make those overlapping runs against the Blues down their left flank, which is not always as fortified as other areas of the pitch given Eden Hazard’s lack of any real defensive resistance. On the other hand, the Dutchman will have to be extremely careful to pick his moments wisely, as any space in behind him could prove to be fatal given the pace in the Chelsea FC front-line.
The likes of Sissoko and Thauvin in particular will look to exploit the Blues’ right-flank, where Branislav Ivanovi has been shown to be vulnerable this season against pace and trickery — attributes Thauvin has in abundance.
Newcastle United’s chances in this game largely depend on how well they are able to close down their opponents, and how efficient they can be on the break. It is how their wins in the previous two seasons against the Blues have come about, and McLaren would do well to study that blue-print ahead of Saturday.
Possible starting XI: Krul; Janmaat, Mbemba, Coloccini, Haidara; Anita, Colback; Sissoko, Wijnaldum, Thauvin; Mitrovi
Jos Mourinho will be without long-term absentee Thibaut Courtois, as well as Spain international Diego Costa, who is still serving a three-match ban after being found guilty of violent conduct in the London derby against Arsenal FC last Saturday.
The Blues played some of their best football of the season prior to the sending off of Gabriel Paulista, but the focus after the game was understandably elsewhere. The introduction of Brazilian Oscar in the no.10 position seemed to make a massive difference to the Chelsea FC midfield, helping them to be more compact, which in turn helped the defence.
The 24-year-old occasionally gets stick for his perceived lack of creativity, but his importance to the Blues cannot be overstated. His intelligence in terms of his pressing and his work-rate in general mean that he acts as a natural shield for the relatively slow double-pivot of Nemanja Mati and Cesc F bregas. It is no coincidence that both appeared to have their best games of the season against the Gunners.
As such, Mourinho will continue with a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Oscar at the centre of the Blues’ attacking triumvirate, flanked by Eden Hazard and Pedro on either side. Former Newcastle United striker LoA?c R my is likely to lead the attack against his old side in the absence of Diego Costa.
Kurt Zouma’s star has been rising for a while now, and his performance against Arsenal FC deservedly earned him rave reviews. The young Frenchman’s pace and athleticism mean that Mourinho is likely to persist with him in defence, as that allows the Blues to hold a relatively high defensive line, which in turn allows the team as a whole to remain compact while pressing the opposition higher up the pitch.
As such, Gary Cahill will also likely retain his place in the side, after the England international himself put in a superb performance against the Gunners. The Blues’ centre-back pairing could be up against Mitrovi , the Magpies’ answer to Diego Costa, and will have to play with a cool mind-set to stay focused on the game.
Possible starting XI: Begovi ; Ivanovi , Cahill, Zouma, Azpilicueta; Mati , F bregas; Pedro, Oscar, Hazard; R my
- Jos Mourinho has never won a Premier League match at St James’ Park in his time as Chelsea FC manager, drawing two and losing three.
- Eden Hazard is still looking for his 50th Chelsea FC goal, as his deflected strike against Arsenal FC was ruled as a Calum Chambers own goal.
- However the Belgian has a good chance of reaching the milestone on Saturday, as he has scored more goals against the Magpies than any other Premier League opponent.
- Newcastle United have won their last three Premier League matches at home to Chelsea FC.
- Newcastle United have won just ONE of their last 17 Premier League games, losing 13 of them.
Player to watch
The diminutive Brazilian is not always appreciated as much as others by Chelsea FC fans, but his absence arguably had a major role to play in the Blues’ poor league form. The 24-year-old’s unique ability as a no.10 adds balance to Mourinho’s team, and it is thist ability that has allowed an attacking-minded player like F bregas to play deeper in midfield.
The midfielder’s creativity and passing ability have also been missed, something that makeshift no.10 Willian was not necessarily able to provide to the side. Oscar is expected to start at St.James’ Park, and it will be intriguing to see how his presence affects those behind and beside him.
Newcastle United 1 – 2 Chelsea FC
Steve McLaren’s men have been in woeful form of late, and will not be going into the game on Saturday with much confidence. An early goal for the Blues could help calm them and pile the pressure on the hosts, who are more than used to going behind in games this season.
This is arguably Mourinho’s best chance to get his first win at St James’ Park, and more likely than not, that is exactly what he will get.
Blast from the past