Chelsea — Newcastle (Premier League)
Saturday Chelsea host Newcastle United in the aftermath of the exhilarating victory over City. The Blues proved once more they exceed against major opponents but to win a title you can’t drop points in those ties you are supposed to win. Tactical-master-Mourinho must call upon Human-Resources-Manager José to prevent overconfidence and maintain the drive. The Magpies are no easy-peasy and they’ll be hoping to bring something out of Stamford Bridge. Against all odds.
Monday night Chelsea become the first team to beat Manchester City at the Etihad this season, and the first to maintain a clean sheet there. It was, by all accounts, a great win for José Mourinho’s tactical genius, although he came out crediting the players for a stellar performance. When all expected the double-deck bus he fielded an aggressive side. You can’t help being overwhelmed by Willian and Hazard’s back-work, classic Mourinho style. Positioning Ramires on the side was brilliant planning but the Brazialian’s job on David Silva was spotless. Hazard was enticing to what, how much is has evolved in these under the Portuguese’s influence. He pressed hard, he came out back, he was all over and still found the time to be creative and baffle Demichelis. And what to say about David Luiz’s tactic discipline? Who would have thought? The way Nemaja Matic hit the ground running it’s as if he never left Stamford Bridge. He was absolutely superb neutralizing Yaya Touré and pivoting the squad.
The Blues are in 3rd place, level on points with their last opposition, two behind Arsenal. Given Matic’s performance he should keep the spot in the starting XI, this time alongside Ramires. Luiz could drop to the bench then. Oscar is likely to return to the midfield trio, behind Eto’o.
Marco van Ginkel and Fernando Torres are the only unavailable.
Probable line-up: Cech — Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta — Matic, Ramires — Hazard, Oscar, Willian — Eto’o.
Pardew’s side travels to London following a heavy 0-3 loss in the Tyne-Wear derby to the Black Cats, the third straight win Sunderland had against their rivals. Despite the Toon’s position on the table — 8th with 37 points — and League track-record — 11W/4D/9L — their recent form has supporters worried. They have just one victory for the last 7 ties in all competitions, having lost 5 of them, and are already out of both Cup contention.
Three months ago Newcastle was successful against the Blues, Yoan Gouffran and Loic Rémy beat Cech. Chelsea has evolved since then and in an excellent moment. To make things tougher for the Magpies they’ll be probably be without both of those scorers. Rémy is serving suspension and Gouffran may not be entirely fit for this match. And it’s obvious they have been struggling with the absence of Yohan Cabaye, a lot of their game crossed his feet and they are yet to adapt to the new reality.
Alan Pardew is dealing with a crowded treatment room. Fabricio Coloccini, Gael Bigirimana, Gabriel Obertan, Papiss Cissé and Ryan Taylor were all ruled out. Gouffran and Shola Ameobi are still doubtful.
Probable line-up: Krul — Debuchy, Williamson, Taylor, Santon — Tioté, Anita — Arfa, Sissoko, Ameobi — Jong.
The reverse fixture (2-0) was a clear victory for the Magpies and left the Blues Manager quite displeased with his squad performance. In fact, in the last three seasons the numbers give Newcastle a slight advantage (3W/ 1D7/ 2L). However, under José Mourinho Chelsea are unbeaten at Stamford Bridge and they’ll be expecting to secure the 72th notch that will keep “the little horse” running with the stallions.