A Blue Up North previews Chelsea’s trip to Newcastle United.
Chelsea travel up to the North East for their Premier League match away to Newcastle United this Saturday. And after finally enjoying a match free midweek, this looks like being a classic tie to test The Blues as they look to extend their winning run to 3 matches.
Usually a mid January trip up to the northernmost reaches of England would include analogies to the high flying sophisticated southern team being brought to ground level by the hard working Northern team in the grimmest of weather conditions. However there is so much more to this line up.
There is a similarity that both clubs currently share but in very different circumstances. The arrival of Frank Lampard as manager at Chelsea has been lauded as the returning hero finally being back home amongst his friends who will cheer him to the rafters no matter how he performs.
Despite only having 1 single season’s experience as a manager and taking over at one of the elite clubs in Europe is one of the toughest of asks.
But his plight was made even tougher thanks to a summer transfer embargo and the loss of the team’s most talented player. This led to expectations being lower than they have been in a long time.
Meanwhile Steve Bruce may also in his first season in charge, but he was a long way down the fans’s wish list to take over from Rafael Benitez. So while the excitement increased at Stamford Bridge with Frank’s arrival, pessimism has been rife at St James’s Park.
Under the tight purse strings of owner Mike Ashley, Steve Bruce has little support in the transfer market to enhance his squad and, instead, Newcastle’s manager has had to contend with a huge injury list during one of the busiest periods of the season.
Despite this, Bruce has managed to keep the club relatively clear of the relegation zone and they currently have 8 points more than they had managed at this stage last season under the FSW.
So in reality both managers are both excelling beyond whatever limited hopes their supporters had from the start of this campaign.
However this is again where both diverge. Most Chelsea fans are loving the way things are progressing at their club. Meanwhile most Geordies are still feeling disillusioned with their club. Performances on the pitch have been erratic while the troubled saga of Mike Ashley’s ownership appears never ending.
Despite their demeanour, the Newcastle fans should be more pleased with Bruce’s management so far. Their expectations are still extremely low, but this match potentially could bring a surprise result.
After all their injury list is starting to reduce, with the likes of Ritchie and Shelvey returning midweek against Rochdale and striker Joelinton finally scoring after a 20 match drought.
Frank is once again without long term absentee Ruben Loftus-Cheek, N’Golo Kante and Christian Pulisic, but Marcos Alonso is likely to return to the squad.
But after a solid victory over Burnley last weekend, the manager is likely to only make minor adjustments to his starting line up. This could lead to us enjoying more of the link up play between Reece James and Callum Hudson-Odoi on the right.
So The Blues will arrive with belief that they can gain another league double over The Magpies. However even if we do win, there will be elements of our fan base who expect so much and will analyse every moment in order to find criticism.
At the other end, even with a repeat of their decent performance at Stamford Bridge back in October, the home fans with keep their expectations to a minimum. And that’s despite Bruce’s efforts this season.
Frank’s efforts however have been overinflating some expectations from Chelsea fans. We need to remember the club’s predicament over the summer and remain grateful for how well the team is developing and growing this season.
Written by Jon Ellis, home and away season ticket holder. Follow him on Twitter @ClitheroeBlue