The FourFourTwo Preview: Chelsea vs Newcastle
Fog on the Tyne (Revisited) (Again). Mike Ashley on vocals this time?
- Chelsea 3-0 Watford (FAC)
- Spurs 5-3 Chelsea (Prem)
- So’ton 1-1 Chelsea (Prem)
- Chelsea 2-0 West Ham (Prem)
- Stoke 0-2 Chelsea (Prem)
- Leicester 1-0 Newcastle (FAC)
- Newcastle 3-3 Burnley (Prem)
- Newcastle 3-2 Everton (Prem)
- Man Utd 3-1 Newcastle (Prem)
- Newcastle 0-1 S’land (Prem)
Sure, they’ve finally washed their hands of Alan Pardew − and been paid handsomely for it too by Crystal Palace − but so much still isn't right about the Toon. Good results since mid-October have papered over cracks but the biggest problem of all remains: Newcastle fans don’t have a club to truly love.
Until Ashley’s tyrannous reign ends, that won’t change. Today’s most pressing matter, though, is finding a new boss to occupy Pardew’s empty office. Nobody really knows who it’s going to be, with former Arsenal enforcer Remi Garde the favourite after Steve McClaren distanced himself earlier this week. Or it could be Frank de Boer. Or Tim ‘Woodsy’ Sherwood. But probably not Glenn Hoddle. Caretaker John Carver wants it but probably won’t get it − not least after last weekend’s dismal FA Cup defeat at Leicester.
Then there’s the potential for their best player to leave in January again. The club have dismissed Eurosport reports that PSG were in ‘advanced talks’ with Moussa Sissoko, but you can never be too sure after that whole Yohan Cabaye thing this time last year.
And this weekend they go to Chelsea, winners of all nine games at Stamford Bridge this season. But not all is rosy in Jose’s garden.
The Blues haven’t quite relinquished top spot in the Premier League, but after a crushing 5-3 defeat at Tottenham, are clinging onto it by virtue of their place in the alphabet after Manchester City clawed back an eight-point deficit by winning eight of their last nine games.
Chelsea’s Christmas run hasn’t been easy, and dropped points at Southampton followed by White Hart humiliation has proved damaging. But getting back to winning ways is hugely important: Mourinho’s men have just three fixtures to build up a head of steam before the big one against City on January 31.
John Terry reckons they'll be alright. "We said in the dressing room we'll come together, put a run together and hopefully get a lead again," chimed the skipper. You wouldn’t bet against them doing just that.
Chelsea have no injuries, nor are any of their players heading to Africa or Asia. Lucky them.
Newcastle, though, are very injured. Let’s start with Papiss Cisse, scorer of both goals in the 2-1 win at St James’ in December, and who technically serves the last of a three-game ban despite already leaving for AFCON duty with Senegal. Then there’s Cheick Tiote, who’s off representing Ivory Coast.
No fewer than 12 other players are potentially crocked for the Magpies, meanwhile, including Rob Elliot, Daryl Janmaat, Fabricio Coloccini, Ryan Taylor, Steven Taylor, Mehdi Abeid, Sammy Ameobi, Rolando Aarons, Gabriel Obertan and Siem de Jong. Jack Colback and Sissoko both missed the Leicester trip with tight hamstrings. But on the plus side, goalkeeper Tim Krul is likely to return after 10 games out.
Key battle: Diego Costa vs Paul Dummett
Chelsea’s chief goal-getter needs little introduction having taken to the Premier League with ease, currently joint-topping the goal charts with 14 alongside Sergio Aguero. It’s no fluke, of course – the Brazil-born hitman’s habit of being in the right place to finish off Blues moves is down to some consistently excellent movement and positioning.
So there’s no doubt, then, that he’ll be rather excited at the prospect of facing a depleted Toon backline shorn of Fabricio Coloccini and Steven Taylor (among others) and relying on Mike Williamson and 23-year-old local lad Dummett to keep things tight.
Newcastle fans can be forgiven for not feeling safe with either at the heart of defence, but the situation dictates that their team has little choice. Dummett, used mostly at left-back since his Magpies breakthrough last season, has struggled on the few occasions he’s been forced inside, epitomised by the hapless own goal that helped Burnley to a 3-3 draw last time out. The signs are ominous for Costa to clear up if his young adversary struggles to find his feet once more.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- N’castle 2-1 Chelsea (PL, Dec 14)
- Chelsea 3-0 N’castle (PL, Feb 14)
- N’castle 2-0 Chelsea (PL, Nov 13)
- N’castle 3-2 Chelsea (PL, Feb 13)
- Chelsea 2-0 N’castle (PL, Aug 12)
Chelsea boss Mourinho was in apologetic form after last weekend’s 3-0 stroll against Watford, after initially berating referee Kevin Friend post-match for his failure to award the Blues a penalty moments before Loic Remy scored anyway (honestly, Jose).
“He saw that it was a penalty, he was going to give a penalty, but he saw the ball was going to Remy and he waited a couple of seconds,” said the Portuguese. “I was complaining but it was good refereeing by Kevin. So I apologised.”
Newcastle, of course, don’t have a manager – and stand-in Carver isn’t entirely chuffed with the situation. “Something has to be resolved sooner rather than later, it can't linger on,” huffed the Tyneside native. “So whether it's with me or with somebody else, it has to be done quickly.”
Facts and figures
- Newcastle have scored more goals via substitutes than any other team in the top flight (8).
- Chelsea have scored with 18% of their shots and hit the target with 50%; both are league-high figures.
- Newcastle have scored the highest proportion of second-half goals in the Premier League (76%).
More FFT Stats Zone facts
It’s not going to be pretty for the Magpies – expect a very comfortable Chelsea win. 3-0.
Back 3-0 at 6/1 with Bet365. Odds right at time of publication