The FourFourTwo Preview: Newcastle vs Chelsea
Byker Grove vs Made in Chelsea, aka the Crimes Against TV derby.
FFT can imagine Jose Mourinho drumming his fingers together with a cunning look, crying: "Eeexcellent, it's all falling into place" a la Mr. Burns, at Cobham this week. There was something of Mourinho's Chelsea version 1.0 in the way his Blues ground out a last-minute win against title rivals Manchester City, and then casually dispatched Arsenal with a regal air of authority 48 hours later. Even Fernando Torres is looking as though he's back to his menacing former self.
Chelsea made 10 changes in midweek but still included the likes of Samuel Eto'o - once the world's highest-paid player - John Obi Mikel, Willian and Juan Mata in his second string XI at the Emirates, winning comfortably. Ominously for the rest of the Premier League, Chelsea are clicking into gear.
- Newcastle 0-2e Man City (LC)
- S'land 2-1 Newcastle (Prem)
- Newcastle 2-2 Liverpool (Prem)
- Cardiff 1-2 Newcastle (Prem)
- Everton 3-2 Newcastle (Prem)
- Arsenal 0-2 Chelsea (LC)
- Chelsea 2-1 Man City (Prem)
- Schalke 0-3 Chelsea (CL)
- Chelsea 4-1 Cardiff (Prem)
- Norwich 1-3 Chelsea (Prem)
Newcastle's powers that be have been banning papers like a bag inspector at Glastonbury this week, but that can't paper (literally!) over the cracks of a heartbreaking late defeat in the derby against Sunderland. The Magpies' home record is poor this season - only one win to date, against Fulham in the 86th minute - and having laboured to extra time before being put down humanely against Manchester City in the cup in midweek, Alan Pardew's (tired) men could do with the tonic of a win against one of the league's big guns.
Massadio Haidara and Paul Dummett both limped off in the cup against City in midweek and are doubts for this game as a result. Steven Taylor and Fabricio Coloccini are also unlikely to return in time, giving Pardew a selection headache in defence against one of the league's most potent counter-attacking teams.
Only Marco van Ginkel's ACL tear prevents Chelsea from having a completely clean bill of health, and Mourinho can pick and mix between the teams that beat City and Arsenal.
Key battle: Yohan Cabaye v Oscar
Yohan Cabaye is in the league's top 10 for shots per game this season, and a significant part of the reason Newcastle lead the division for goals from outside the box. With long-range scorchers against Everton and Liverpool, Cabaye's tendency to shoot from almost anywhere will have to be well-monitored by Chelsea's midfielders, and Oscar usually forms a major part of any tactical plan in this part of the field.
This scribe has raved about Oscar's talents before. Four goals makes him Chelsea's top league scorer this season, while he also has the versatility and tactical intelligence to play spoiler if needed. Whoever seizes control of the Franco-Brazilian midfield battle is likely to have a considerable influence on the result.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Newc 3-2 Chelsea (Prem, Feb 13)
- Chelsea 2-0 Newc (Prem, Aug 12)
- Chelsea 0-2 Newc (Prem, May 12)
- Newc 0-3 Chelsea (Prem, Dec 11)
- Chelsea 2-2 Newc (Prem, May 11)
It's Mourinho 4-0 Pardew in head-to-head meetings. 'Nuff said, really.
Facts and figures
- Newcastle have netted a joint-league-high five goals from outside the box this season.
- Chelsea have averaged two goals per game in their last five Premier League trips to St James’ Park.
- Newcastle have failed to score in seven of their last 12 top-flight encounters with Chelsea.
- Chelsea have conceded exactly one goal in each of their last four Premier League games.
- Fernando Torres has had five shots on target in the Premier League this season, with three of them coming last weekend against Manchester City.
- Torres has scored with 13% of his Premier League shots for Chelsea (compared to 22% of his efforts when he was at Liverpool).
- Chelsea have only kept three clean sheets in their last 12 Premier League away games.
- Newcastle have taken just five points from their last seven Premier League home games (W1 D2).
- Eden Hazard has created more chances from open play than any other player in the Premier League this season (19).
- Newcastle have conceded the joint-most headed goals this season (five, along with Fulham).
- Jose Mourinho has won only two of his last nine Premier League away games (D5 L2).
Newcastle played a significant number of first-team players in midweek. Cup weariness will cost them. 1-3.