A Blue Up North previews Chelsea’s visit to Newcastle United.
This Sunday sees the final round of Premier League matches and Chelsea make their way up to the North East for their visit to Newcastle United. Sadly, it is not a happy hunting ground for The Blues.
Despite not winning at St James’s Park since December 2011, Antonio Conte will be taking a Chelsea side who should have an air of confidence about them. After all, The Blues had won 5 consecutive matches before a disappointing home draw against Huddersfield Town on Wednesday.
That run has allowed the West Londoners to close the gap on 4th place to just 3 points and has seen them reach this season’s FA Cup Final. So from a near impossible position of a 10 point deficit in early April, Chelsea go into this final Premier League match of the season with a chance of still qualifying for next season’s Champions League.
Admittedly the chances are very remote despite being mathematically possible. Chelsea need to be victorious away at Newcastle for the first time in 5 visits, but they need to rely on European Cup finalists Liverpool to lose at home to Brighton on their first Premier League visit to Anfield.
But while it is still possible, surely Antonio Conte will revert back to what he believes is his strongest starting line up. This would mean recalls for Thibaut Courtois, Gary Cahill, Victor Moses, Eden Hazard and Olivier Giroud. And with only a victory being of any use, he may well keep the more attacking 3-4-3 formation.
Newcastle themselves have also had quite a fluctuating season. After flirting with the relegation zone during mid season, they turned on the results with a run of only 2 defeats in 2018 up until mid April. At that point, The Magpies had passed the magical 40 point survival mark and they have then lost all 4 league matches up until Sunday’s clash with The Blues.
And it will be that recent run of losses that Chelsea will need to focus on in their attempt to gain all 3 points. A strong imposing start with the visitors piling on the pressure should raise the home side’s nerves. If Conte can send his side out as motivated as possible from the first whistle then at least his side should achieve their half of what is required.
If so, it will be all eyes on Merseyside in the hope that Chris Hughton’s Brighton side can finish off their first season in the Premier League with a victory that will also complete The Blues’s unlikely Champions League qualification. What a final day that will be especially after such an indifferent season.
Written by Jon Ellis. Follow him on Twitter @ClitheroeBlue