St James’ Park is the venue as Newcastle United and Chelsea lock horns in a handsome-looking Premier League showdown on Saturday.
A high fixture volume caused by the Magpies’ first Champions League group stage campaign in two decades is taking its toll as injuries have cut through Eddie Howe’s squad.
Wrecked by a substantial list of absentees, Newcastle slipped to an underwhelming 2-0 defeat at relegation-fighting Bournemouth on the stroke of November’s international break.
Dominic Solanke’s unanswered second-half double at the Vitality Stadium knocked the Tyneside outfit down from a seven-match undefeated streak in the Premier League (W5, D2).
Since fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur lost 2-1 at Wolverhampton Wanderers a day earlier, Newcastle spurned a golden opportunity to whittle down a six-point on the Champions League spots.
Having been given a fortnight to regroup, Howe’s side can use Chelsea’s visit to regain confidence following consecutive losses in all competitions, but it’s easier said than done.
Looking at the Blues’ four-game league form (W1, D2, L1), it appears Mauricio Pochettino is still struggling to implement his ideas in west London after a catastrophic 2022/23 campaign.
But the visitors might have set the tone for a keenly-anticipated renaissance before the international break.
After becoming the first side to beat Tottenham in the Premier League with an emphatic 4-1 home triumph, they shared the spoils with Manchester City in a memorable clash at Stamford Bridge.
Cole Palmer kept his composure to convert a last-gasp penalty against his former team and catapult Chelsea to a confidence-boosting 4-4 home draw.
The international break offered injury-plagued Newcastle much-needed breathing room after back-to-back 2-0 defeats to Borussia Dortmund and Bournemouth.
But both those losses came on the road, highlighting the importance of the impending return to St James’ Park, where the Magpies have won their last five domestic games without conceding.
Even though three of those five victories yielded a narrow 1-0 scoreline, Howe’s side won’t be bothered, knowing their last two top-flight home wins over Chelsea came by a goal to nil.
However, those successes sandwiched a pair of defeats that saw Newcastle draw a blank and concede at least twice, underlining how significant a fast start could be.
It was about time for Chelsea to lace up their scoring boots, having been the most profligate attack in the Premier League during Pochettino’s early reign.
After netting just 13 times in the first ten league matchdays, the Blues have tallied eight goals in the last two, perhaps laying the groundwork for a new era of success following a nightmarish year and a half.
Goals aren’t the ultimate measure of success. Pochettino still has to recover significant ground on the top-fou spots, with Chelsea commencing this round a whopping ten points adrift of Spurs.
Hitting the road could be helpful, considering after going winless on their first two away league matches this season (D1, L1), the Londoners have won on their last three travels by an aggregate score of 10-2.
Callum Wilson has joined Harvey Barnes, Sven Botman, Jacob Murphy, Dan Burn, Elliott Anderson and Matt Targett on the sidelines with a hamstring injury. Sandro Tonali’s out for ten months due to suspension.
But Newcastle could receive a massive fitness boost ahead of this game, with Alexander Isak edging closer to returning to the fold from a groin problem.
Chelsea’s Wesley Fofana, Ben Chilwell, Carney Chukwuemeka and Trevoh Chalobah are still in the treatment room, with Christopher Nkunku and Romeo Lavia working on recoveries from long-term injuries.
Although both players will have to wait a bit longer for their Chelsea debuts, Malo Gusto and Levi Colwill are on the verge of full recovery after pulling out of their international squads due to minor issues.
Newcastle United potential starting line-up:
(4-3-3): Pope; Kieran Trippier, Fabian Schar, Jamaal Lascelles, Tino Livramento; Joelinton, Bruno Guimaraes, Joe Willock; Miguel Almiron, Alexander Isak, Anthony Gordon.
Chelsea potential starting line-up:
(4-3-3): Robert Sanchez; Reece James, Axel Disasi, Thiago Silva, Marc Cucurella; Moises Caicedo, Enzo Fernandez, Conor Gallagher; Cole Palmer, Nicolas Jackson, Raheem Sterling.
We Say: Newcastle United 1-2 Chelsea
Chelsea pulled off two statement results against Spurs and Man City before the international break and can now issue a warning to the rest of the division that they’re back.
Injuries led to Newcastle’s dreadful performance at Bournemouth. On that basis, it makes perfect sense the Blues have a genuine shot at three points.
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