After a much needed week-long break, Chelsea host Newcastle United on Saturday, looking to avenge the 2-1 defeat at St. James’ Park in December, as a result of which Chelsea lost their 21 match unbeaten run. With Chelsea topping the table courtesy of only alphabetical order, Saturday sees Chelsea and City start the race towards the league title.
TEAM NEWS, SUSPENSIONS AND INJURY UPDATES
Chelsea, fortunately, have no injury worries, nor suspended players. A host of first team players, namely Eden Hazard, John Terry, Ivanovic, Fabregas and Matic, were rested during the match against Watford, and will be starting on Saturday. Diego Costa and Willian were only brought on after half time and are quite fresh to start. Oscar, Hazard and Willian will form the regular attacking midfield, while Costa is expected to lead the line. Fabregas and Matic will play in the centre as usual. Cahill and Terry will be back in defence with Ivanovic as right back and Azpilicueta at left back. Ramires, now fully fit, is expected to come on at some point in the match. Nigeria has not qualified for the African Cup of Nations and thus Mikel is available for selection.
Newcastle United have serious injury concerns, with Gabriel Obertan, De Jong, Sammy Ameobi, Ryan Taylor, Steven Taylor, Rolando Aarons and Mehdi Abeid unavailable. Young goalkeeper Rob Elliot, whose heroic performances against Chelsea at St. James’ Park earned Newcastle 3 points, is out with a thigh injury. Daryl Janmaat, Fabricio Coloccini, Moussa Sissoko and Jack Colback will face late fitness tests. Cheick Tiote and Papiss Cisse are on international duty at the African Cup of Nations. Goalkeeper Tim Krul is expected to return, however Jak Alnwick is on standby should Krul not make the first team.
Chelsea no longer have that air of invincibility like at the start of the season. With Manchester City matching Chelsea in points, goal difference, number of goals scored and conceded, Saturday sees these two giants well and truly, start a race towards the Premier League title. Tiredness has been a crucial factor for Chelsea’s recent slump, and so this break of a week, or a break of about 10 days for the players rested against Watford, will have done the squad a whole lot of good. Jose Mourinho will have warned his players that they must toil for every single point if they are to be crowned champions come May, and a slip-up now could prove very costly. After a woeful match against the Spurs, the 3-0 victory against Watford has been a morale booster and Chelsea will be looking for revenge for the defeat at St. James Park earlier this season.
With Alan Pardew now being named the new manager of Crystal Palace, John Carver has been appointed the caretaker boss. The new manager will have to deal with a lot of issues, from injuries to vital players leaving on international duty. Carver has already been criticized for naming a very weakened side against Leicester City in the FA Cup in the weekend, a match they lost 1-0. Newcastle sit 10th in the table, and fans will be hoping for better performances, but an away match to Stamford Bridge may not be an ideal start. With crucial players missing, Newcastle United will have to rely heavily on their defensive unit to stop the likes of Costa, Hazard and Willian.
Newcastle United have the highest proportion of second half goals this season. Also, Newcastle United have the highest number of scorers from the bench. Chelsea have won 42 of the 74 matches at Stamford Bridge against Newcastle United.
REVERSE FIXTURE THIS SEASON
Newcastle United 2-1 Chelsea 06/12/2014
LAST 5 PREMIER LEAGUE MEETINGS
Newcastle United 2-1 Chelsea 06/12/2014
Chelsea 3-0 Newcastle United 08/02/2014
Newcastle United 2-0 Chelsea 02/11/2013
Newcastle United 3-2 Chelsea 02/02/2013
Chelsea 2-0 Newcastle United 25/08/2012
PREDICTED STARTING LINE-UPS
Chelsea: Courtois (GK), Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry (C), Azpilicueta, Matic, Fabregas, Willian, Hazard, Oscar, Costa.
Newcastle United: Krul (GK), Santon, Williamson, Coloccini (C), Dummett, Anita, Gouffran, Cabella, Colback, Sissoko, Perez.
Chelsea 3-0 Newcastle United
TIME: 1500 GMT / 2030 IST
VENUE: Stamford Bridge
REFEREE: Roger East
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Edited By: Ankur Bhatt