The Premier League returns after a small break for the third round of the FA Cup. The Christmas period was hectic and Premier League clubs will look forward to returning to a more fixed schedule as the last few weeks have seen a number of injuries racked up by teams in the top flight. The month ahead will be filled with transfer speculation and both of these clubs could make a move in the market, although the away side has more pressing needs than the leaders. Newcastle have been a dangerous side for Chelsea over recent seasons and they’ll be pleased that this match is taking place at Stamford Bridge, rather than St James’ Park.
Chelsea have seen their lead cut down in recent weeks, dropping points against Southampton and Tottenham. They will be pleased to return to Stamford Bridge and it’s imperative that they return to winning ways in the league against one of the two sides to inflict defeat on them this season. Jose Mourinho will be sure to underline the importance of a win and he will remind his players that they owe Newcastle one after a disappointing result on Tyneside. The title race will be won over the next couple of months, as one team will start to hit their stride going into the run in. Chelsea need to avoid silly defeats and in a period in which both Sergio Aguero and Yaya Toure will be missing for Manchester City. The Blues need to capitalise on any points dropped by their main title rivals.
Newcastle United need to do business in this transfer window. Their first task is to get a head coach in to replace Alan Pardew and news out of the club is that an appointment may not be forthcoming until after the Southampton match. John Carver will be the man in charge until then, and he still has his eyes on the permanent job, but he is unlikely to get it given the poor results to date. Remi Garde is the favourite for the job and is interested according to the media. Newcastle can’t allow this season to fade away like last season and keeping the likes of Moussa Sissoko and Ayoze Perez this month is crucial. They also need to add a centre back as Steven Taylor is likely to be out until the summer and they lack cover in that area of the pitch. They won’t have any expectations going into this match, but a good performance is a must after a disappointing cup exit.
In the earlier meeting this season, Newcastle became the first team to beat Chelsea with Papiss Cisse getting two goals after being brought off the bench. Didier Drogba scored a late goal, but the home side clung onto the three points. In the corresponding match last season, Chelsea won with some comfort as an Eden Hazard hat-trick was enough to see the hosts triumph 3-0.
Chelsea have no injury concerns going into this weekend which gives them an advantage over every other Premier League club. They will be hoping they can capitalise on this period and start to build the type of momentum they had at the beginning of the season. Mo Salah is set to leave the club this month, while Loic Remy is pushing for a place to face his former club after impressing in the FA Cup.
Newcastle are still in their injury crisis which has been running for over two months now. Steven Taylor is likely to miss the rest of the season. Moussa Sissoko, Daryl Janmaat, Jack Colback, Fabricio Coloccini, Tim Krul and Mehdi Abeid are all in line to return this weekend. Siem de Jong, Rolando Aarons, Sammy Ameobi and Ryan Taylor could all return this month. Cheick Tiote and Papiss Cisse will be unavailable for the foreseeable future as they are representing their countries in the African Cup of Nations.
Jose Mourinho had only ever seen one of his sides concede five goals on one occasion before New Years Day. That was when his Real Madrid side lost 5-0 to Barcelona.
Only four clubs have conceded more goals than Newcastle this season, showing their defensive problems. They haven’t kept a clean sheet in their last 8 league matches.
Eden Hazard has been less important for Chelsea this season with Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa coming in, but he remains one of the most talented players in the Premier League. He has the potential to become one of the best players in the world. However he needs to add more consistency to his game as he is normally better at Stamford Bridge than he is away from home. He scored a crucial goal at St Marys but it was his first goal away from home for a number of months. The Belgian has eleven goals in all competitions, which is only three less than Diego Costa. With growing rumours about a move for Lionel Messi, the Chelsea midfielder will be keen to give a good performance and show everybody that he is good enough to be the main man in this side and that Messi isn’t needed. He has created 52 chances in the league, four of which were assists. This highlights why the Belgian will be a danger for Newcastle this weekend as he creates lots of chances, while he can score goals as he showed in this fixture last season when he bagged a hat-trick.
Newcastle made one of the signings of the summer when they brought in Ayoze Perez from Tenerife for a fee of just £1.5m. He was attracting interest from FC Porto, Real Madrid, Valencia and Barcelona, and it’s easy to see why as the Spaniard has flew onto the scene in the North East. He was voted the best attacking midfielder in the Segunda division in Spain, but he has played more as a striker in black and white. The Spaniard has scored five league goals this season, with a shooting accuracy of 65%, which is impressive for a player who was unheard of in England before this season. Two of the biggest signings made by Newcastle, Emmanuel Riviere and Remy Cabella, have struggled to settle in the North East and they have a bigger pedigree than Perez, yet it is the Spaniard that is attracting interest from bigger clubs in England. Perez has a huge future in the game, and his trickery and movement will make him a problem for Chelsea’s defence.
If this match was at St James’ Park then I may see a chance for Newcastle, but Jose Mourinho’s side rarely drop points at Stamford Bridge and I expect a convincing home victory at the weekend. Newcastle are still without a manager, and despite wanting the job, John Carver doesn’t have the experience to be a candidate for the head coach role, that will be evident on Saturday. The away side need to make an appointment sooner rather than later and they can’t afford to let it drift along for too long under Carver.
Chelsea 3-0 Newcastle United