The FourFourTwo Preview: Newcastle vs Chelsea
Chelsea travel to their bogey ground.
- Newcastle 0-1 Sheff Wed (LC)
- Newcastle 1-2 Watford (Prem)
- West Ham 2-0 Newcastle (Prem)
- Newcastle 0-1 Arsenal (Prem)
- Newcastle 4-1 Northampton (LC)
- Walsall 1-4 Chelsea (LC)
- Chelsea 2-0 Arsenal (Prem)
- Chelsea 4-0 M Tel Aviv (CL)
- Everton 3-1 Chelsea (Prem)
- Chelsea 1-2 Palace (Prem)
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Chelsea finally got their season started with a 2-0 win over Arsenal last weekend and will now be looking to record back-to-back league wins for the first time in 2015/16. Despite that victory against Arsene Wenger’s side – the Frenchman is still awaiting his first triumph over Jose Mourinho in the Premier League – and Manchester City’s shock defeat to West Ham, it remains too early to definitively declare that the Blues are back in the title race.
Indeed, even though Nemanja Matic and Cesc Fabregas were much-improved against the Gunners, question marks remain over the form of Eden Hazard and Branislav Ivanovic, while Radamel Falcao is an unconvincing deputy for part-time striker, full-time wind-up merchant Diego Costa. Still eight points off the summit, Mourinho knows his team can scarcely afford another major slip-up if they are to retain their Premier League crown this term.
Things have been even worse for Newcastle and their manager Steve McClaren, who is still without a top flight win as the Magpies' manager. Following a truly disastrous season last time out in which the Toon only narrowly avoided relegation to the Championship, the Geordie faithful were hoping for an upturn in fortunes after seeing their club spend almost £50 million on new signings in the summer. Instead, there has been a continuation of many of the problems of old, with very few United players impressing in the opening weeks of the campaign.
A 2-1 loss at home to newly promoted Watford last Saturday was the nadir up to now, with McClaren’s charges sinking to 19th place in the early standings. As a general rule relegated teams tend to suffer from poor finishing and error-strewn defending, and Newcastle are following the pattern: no team has scored fewer than their three goals so far, with only Sunderland (13), Chelsea (12) and Norwich (10) conceding more often than Newcastle (nine) in the first six matches of the season.
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Willian and Thibaut Courtois miss out again for Chelsea, who will also be without Costa after the Spain international was handed a three-match ban following his clashes with Laurent Koscielny and Gabriel Paulista. John Terry was an unused substitute in that game against Arsenal and could return on Tyneside, with Oscar again likely to start after two fine performances against Maccabi Tel Aviv and the Gunners.
A host of injuries have not exactly helped Newcastle at the start of the campaign, with Steven Taylor, Cheick Tiote, Paul Dummett, Curtis Good, Emmanuel Riviere and Sylvain Marveaux all currently sidelined and Papiss Cisse and Massadio Haidara both carrying knocks. Aleksandar Mitrovic is available again following suspension and could go straight back into McClaren’s starting XI.
Key battle: Jack Colback vs Oscar
Oscar has been excellent since returning from injury, his guile helping to knit Chelsea’s midfield and attack together and his off-the-ball work leading to an improvement in the Blues’ pressing. While the Brazil international has never appeared to be a favourite of Mourinho’s, his form in the last couple of weeks has made him a key player in this Chelsea side again.
Colback could be the man asked to shackle the 24-year-old at St James’ Park. The local lad was used as the deepest midfielder in McClaren’s 4-2-3-1 system last time out, with Georginio Wijnaldum given the licence to join the attack as Colback concentrated on shielding the back four. If he is deployed in the same role against the champions on Saturday evening, Colback’s primary task will be to pick up Oscar and try to disrupt Chelsea’s rhythm.
Blue line = completed pass. X = tackle. + = ball recovery. Diamond = interception. Star = take-on.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Chelsea 2-0 N’castle (PL, Jan 15)
- 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)
It has not been the start Newcastle boss McClaren would have been hoping for when he took over in the summer. Another loss this weekend could put the former England manager under pressure even at this early stage of the campaign, although McClaren is at least likely to find a powerful ally in opposite number Mourinho, who has been highly complimentary of the 54-year-old in the past. “I’m comfortable for my players to be there because I know basically the way Steve thinks about football,” Mourinho said when asked why he had chosen to loan striker Patrick Bamford to McClaren’s Derby County outfit in 2014.
“The England job is not easy. If things go wrong the manager will always be the first in trouble. He suffered but he moved on, went to Holland, Germany, new cultures and new football. Good experiences. To go abroad is a fantastic experience. Sometimes it looks like English players and managers don’t like to go abroad, but others are coming to their country. Steve had that experience and it was a great one.”
Facts and figures
- Jose Mourinho has never won a Premier League game at St James’ Park (D2 L3).
- Papiss Cissé has scored 4 Premier League goals against Chelsea – only against Stoke and Swansea (also 4) has he scored as many.
- Chelsea have allowed their opponents a league-high 40 shots on target in the Premier League this season and have conceded 12 goals - a tally only Sunderland (13) can beat.
More FFT Stats Zone facts
Newcastle’s misery and Chelsea’s revival to both continue. 0-2.