A Blue Up North previews Chelsea’s home Premier League match against Newcastle United.
The Saturday teatime kick off this weekend sees Chelsea host Newcastle United at Stamford Bridge. It is a Premier League fixture which has traditionally been very generous to The Blues.
After some tight, narrow match ups in the early years of the competition, Chelsea have enjoyed some emphatic victories over The Magpies at home. Stamford Bridge is definitely a ground which the Newcastle fans do not enjoy visiting.
However, with Chelsea’s recent poor goal scoring form, especially at home in the league, the visitors may believe they have arrived at the best time to face The Blues. Former Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez may have had minimal transfer funds in his time on Tyneside, but he is an experienced manager who will set his team up to attempt to make the most of the situation.
Maurizio Sarri will be without striker Alvaro Morata due to a hamstring injury suffered in training, while Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Danny Drinkwater are still unavailable. Cesc Fabregas and his magic hat left the club this week to sign for French club AS Monaco.
The manager will have a fairly clear reign to choose his starting line up from the rest of his squad. Not all the players are fully fit as they are either still recovering from injury or have played multiple matches during the busy spell Chelsea have had over the last couple of months.
We can expect David Luiz and Mateo Kovacic to return in central defence and central midfield respectively. Sarri’s biggest decision will once again be who he opts for in attack. Olivier Giroud is his only available fit striker, but the manager may persist with utilising Eden Hazard as his central forward and choose 2 from Callum Hudson-Odoi, Willian and Pedro to play on the flanks.
With The Blues having the rare luxury of no midweek match, meaning a full week until their next outing, Sarri can use his strongest line up against The Magpies.
Benitez will be without Paul Dummett, Jonjo Shelvey, Ki Sung-yueng and Mohamed Diamé, while Kenedy is unable to play against his parent club. It will mean the Spaniard will need to shuffle his squad yet again, including promoting a few youth players in to his matchday squad.
Benitez did win the manager of the month award back in November, but since then United have only won once in their 9 matches.
At St James’s Park earlier in the season, Newcastle played very defensively whilst targeting Hazard with robust challenges. Don’t be too surprised to see similar tactics from them. Their most likely threat could well be at set pieces with a relatively high number of tall players in their squad.
From Chelsea’s point of view this match will all be about finally scoring some home Premier League goals, with their last strikes at Stamford Bridge being back on 8 December against champions Manchester City. The Blues will enjoy long spells of possession, but it will be whether they can break through what will be large numbers in defence.
If Chelsea can finally trouble the scorers, they will surely go on to win all 3 points, which will help cement their top 4 position. 5th placed Arsenal kick off earlier in the day away at West Ham, before the Gunners host Chelsea next Saturday in what could be a very psychological match up as the 2 London clubs battle for Champions League football next season.
Written by Jon Ellis, home and away season ticket holder. Follow him on Twitter @ClitheroeBlue