Chelsea will welcome Newcastle United to Stamford Bridge on Saturday in the late kickoff. The hosts will be looking to put an end to their difficulties at home with a positive result against a club led by one of their former managers. Rafa Benitez wasn’t a popular figure in West London and he will be desperate to inflict defeat on his previous employers. In the past, this was a competitive fixture, but the visitors have fallen behind the top clubs and they now approach games like these with an expectation of defeat.
For Chelsea, their aim has to be to challenge at the top of the division with a top-four finish being the minimum expectation. They are on track for that, but recent results have allowed their rivals to gain points on them. Maurizio Sarri’s team have struggled to score goals with an over-reliance on Eden Hazard. In their previous two home Premier League matches, they have taken only one point from Leicester City and Southampton. They can’t afford a similar result on Saturday.
Newcastle are heading for another relegation battle and the atmosphere continues to be a worrying one. Rafa Benitez looks to be a defeated man and his recent comments reflect that. He refuses to talk about the transfer window, despite it being clear that he needs to be backed. Meanwhile, the takeover rumours continue to rumble on behind the scenes, yet there has yet to be evidence that there is truth to the rumours. Supporters have little to get excited about and it is difficult to see them getting anything from the game this weekend.
- Eden Hazard won seven fouls during the midweek defeat to Tottenham. This was the most fouls he has won in a single game all season.
- Newcastle United have scored only five goals in their last nine competitive matches.
It has become obvious throughout the season that Chelsea are reliant on Eden Hazard to produce attacking returns. The rest of their forward options are inconsistent or not given a fair chance in the first team. Opposition teams can opt to man mark the Belgian with two or three defenders and that nullifies the Blues’ attack. A few teams have managed to be successful in those tactics and Benitez will look to carry out a similar approach on Saturday. However, Hazard has the quality to rise above that and produce a match-winning performance. In 11 matches against Newcastle, he has contributed seven goals and three assists. That will give him confidence that he can have a huge performance this weekend.
Newcastle supporters will attest that their goalkeeper has been the standout player this season. They would rather an attacking player took that title, but they lack the flair and talent that teams in the past have had. This Magpies’ team relies on being strong at the back and taking their chances on the counter-attack. They don’t concede many clear-cut chances, but when they do, their goalkeeper often makes important saves to keep them in matches. In their previous Premier League game, Dubravka made a mistake that led to a Manchester United goal. However, it was an exception rather than the rule and he will be desperate to bounce back with a dominant display against Chelsea.
Alvaro Morata is a doubt, while Ruben Loftus-Cheek may not have recovered from a back problem. Pedro will be pushing for a recall, but Callum Hudson-Odoi will be looking to retain his starting place.
Jonjo Shelvey, Mo Diame and Federico Fernandez are all doubts for the game. Ki Sung-Yeung is on international duty with South Korea, which means Sean Longstaff could be given his first Premier League start. Kenedy is not available to play against his parent club.
Chelsea have regularly struggled at home and Newcastle have shown themselves to be good at the back. It will be a very one-sided game with the home side dominating possession, but there is no evidence that they will be able to break the visitors down. They have failed to score in their previous two home Premier League matches. If Newcastle can hold out until the second half, the supporters and players alike could lose belief. It wouldn’t be a shock if they failed to win yet again this weekend. Chelsea 0-0 Newcastle