There will be an opportunity for Chelsea to move into the top four with a win over Newcastle United on Monday. If they do manage to pick up three points, it will provide early justification for the decision to replace Frank Lampard with Thomas Tuchel. They will be coming up against an improving Newcastle team, but the home side will consider this a must-win match, considering their respective positions in the league table.
Although there are some themes to come from Tuchel’s first few matches in charge, such as their increased possession and defensive stability. However, there has been plenty of rotation and there is a lack of clarity over who the preferred players are under the German coach. This means that players have something to prove and that should translate to consistently high performances on the pitch. Their FA Cup victory over Barnsley wasn’t their best performance, but they got the result. Tuchel is bringing a winning mentality that the squad lacked under Lampard.
Newcastle have dropped to 17th and there is great unrest among their supporters about the current situation. However, at the time of writing, there are ten points separating them from the bottom three and there will be confidence that they won’t be dragged into a relegation battle. Their recent performances have been good, as they have beaten Southampton and Everton. Meanwhile, they were unfortunate to lose to Leeds United and Crystal Palace based on the quality of chances they created. Supporters have seen these false dawns before under Steve Bruce. They need to maintain this level of performance on Monday.
Chelsea haven’t conceded a goal to an opposition player since Thomas Tuchel took charge. Their only goal conceded was an Antonio Rudiger own goal.
Newcastle have won two of their last three Premier League matches. This is as many as they had managed in their previous 13 in the competition.
It has been another season of progression for Mason Mount, as he has established himself as a key member of this Chelsea team. He may have feared for his place following the managerial change, but it does seem that Tuchel has quickly taken to him. Mount has impressive versatility, which allows him to play a number of roles. This is one of the reasons why he will be important under the new regime. During the first few weeks, Tuchel has preferred to play him in an advanced position and there have been promising signs on the pitch. Against Sheffield United, he scored the winning goal and he often leads from the front on the pitch. Newcastle won’t be as defensive as they have been in previous matches against top six teams, due to their new front-foot approach. However this may suit Mount, as he will have more space to operate in.
The aforementioned change in approach from Newcastle has benefitted several in the squad, but none more so than Miguel Almiron. Since he signed for the Magpies, he has shown flashes of his quality. However, he hasn’t been given a role to bring the best out of him on a consistent basis. That looks set to change, as he is playing regularly at the tip of a diamond, with the freedom to press from the front. Against Southampton, he scored twice, which takes his tally to three in the last four matches. The most impressive thing about the victory was that two of the goals last weekend came as a result of the Paraguayan winning the ball back in dangerous areas. Previously, Newcastle have been passive and let the opposition play their natural game. Almiron benefits from the pressing approach and if they play with the same vigour on Monday, he could cause Chelsea problems.
It is hoped that Timo Werner will be fit to play a part for Chelsea. Kai Havertz and Andreas Christensen are both doubts for the fixture. Thiago Silva is another few days away from being able to play again.
Callum Wilson will be missing for the next six weeks with a hamstring problem. It is likely that Dwight Gayle will deputise in his absence. Fabian Schar and Javi Manquillo both also picked up serious injuries in the victory over Southampton. They will both be missing for a similar timeframe. However, Ciaran Clark, Federico Fernandez and Jamaal Lascelles should be back to ease the defensive crisis. Jeff Hendrick is suspended.
Chelsea have been clinical in their matches under Tuchel, but they have yet to play with the fluidity and confidence that you would expect of a top four team. They could move into the Champions League places with a win and that should prove to be enough motivation for the players. That said, Newcastle have been better in recent weeks. If they had Callum Wilson, they may fancy their chances of getting something from Stamford Bridge. Without him, it looks a very difficult task.
Chelsea 2-1 Newcastle United