Newcastle – Chelsea (Premier League)
When Newcastle and Chelsea meet, on Saturday, at St. James Park, the sides will be coming from very different places. For the Magpies, the mindset will be “we need to get out of the hole and fast” and they could certainly do without this though battle right now. But for the Blues is “everything is falling into place so let’s crush them” mode. Only the Gods of Football know how this clash will end. But us, the fans, are in for a ride.
Newcastle United comes from a double setback. First they allowed Sunderland their first win of the season and later were thrown out of the League Cup by Manchester City, in overtime. They now stand at the middle of the Premier League table, with as many points as Swansea and Hull City. Not exactly an achievement. So far their home record has been dreadful, the only victory was a 1-0 against Fulham, in the 86th minute of the game.
The Maggpies are not without talent, just think of Loic Rémy, Ben Arfa, Cabaye, Gouffran, Tioté and Cissé. You’d think that with such assets they ought to be doing a lot more for themselves, youldn’t you? And heading for this next fixture Alan Pardew’s men must be tired. His squad does not have the luxury of a B team that could win almost every single league in the world. Haidara and Dummet were both sore when they left the pitch on Wednesday and are in doubt. Steven Taylor and Coloccini will most likely remain unavailable. Pardew is in for an monster headache when it comes to select a defence lineup.
Probable lineup: Krul – Debuchy, Williamson, Yanga Mbiwa, Santon – Tioté, Cabaye – Ben Arfa, Sissoko, Rémy – Papiss Cissé.
In October the Blues had six victories in a row, scored 18 times and conceded only 3. In the two recent successes, against City and Arsenal, they won a lot more than points and a ticket to the next round of the League Cup. In both clashes Chelsea was put to the test and they passed with flying colours. This season Chelsea played 15 matches, 10 wins, 2 draws and 3 losses. They were defeated on the UEFA Super Cup by Bayern in penalties, away by Everton (1-0) and home by FC Basel in mid September. Since then, no more. They are now number two on the Premier League, 2 points under leader Arsenal. The Blues Captain, John Terry is back to his solid and high-handed performances and he credits the “Happy One” for it. In fact, Chelsea’s defence is getting in front of whatever comes their way. There is the El Niño’s rebirth, of course, but Ramires, Schurrle and Cahill, for instance, have been absolutely remarkable. Mata’s situation in the club is evidence of how hard it is to choose only eleven starters. Only Marco van Ginkel is rulled out in an otherwise entirely fit squad.
Probable lineup: Cech – Ivanovic, Luiz, Terry, Cole – Ramires, Lampard – Hazard, Oscar, Schurrle – Torres.
In the six most recent fixtures between the two sides things have been tied, two for the Magpies, two for the Blues and to stalemates. Considering the moment Newcastle United and Chelsea are in last season’s 3-2 is not the most likely outcome for the Londoners visit to St. James Park. But all things are possible, I suppose, and Alan Pardew needs something to hold on to.