The Premier League were deliberate in their fixture scheduling for the final weekend before the World Cup break. The plan was to avoid any of the traditional top six clubs facing each other, as it was thought this would limit injuries. However, Newcastle United’s incredible start to the season means that their match with Chelsea has more intrigue than usual. Both teams are currently in the top seven and the home side could move nine points clear of the Blues with a win.
Newcastle’s takeover last year was always likely to lead to better times on Tyneside. Few expected it to be this quickly though. Eddie Howe’s side are genuine top four contenders, even if there remain doubts about their squad depth. Over the last six weeks, they have been excellent in the league. They have yet to taste defeat at St James’ Park and the stadium will be rocking this weekend. They are well placed to secure another statement victory against an out-of-sorts Chelsea team. If they do, they will confirm their position in the top three heading into the World Cup break.
It was hoped that Graham Potter would lead a revolution at Chelsea. He did an excellent job at Brighton and was seen as the correct profile to lead the new era at Stamford Bridge. His start has been mixed, with recent results putting a negative spin on his short time in charge. The break will give him time to assess where the squad is, but a defeat on Saturday would bring unneeded negativity throughout the stoppage. It is expected that he gets time to prove himself in the capital, but a surprise sacking can’t be ruled out if they do lose on Tyneside. Thomas Tuchel was dismissed in a surprising fashion after all.
Newcastle have conceded 11 times in the Premier League. This is the joint best defensive record, alongside Arsenal.
Chelsea have a good recent record against Newcastle, winning seven of their last eight against the Magpies.
It has been a fantastic week for Callum Wilson, as he was named in the England squad for the World Cup. After an absence of three years, it is an excellent achievement. His form since his return from injury has been great and he has forced his way into the squad. In the last league game at home, he scored a brace in front of Gareth Southgate and he could have scored more on the day. In hindsight, that was his audition and he passed it with flying colours. He has suffered from illness lately, but he will be keen to start this weekend and show his quality against a top-six team. This season, he has already scored against Manchester City and Tottenham. This is another opportunity for him to have an impact against one of the best teams in the division. Although he has made the squad, he will want to play in Qatar. A good performance this weekend will help him with that aim. Chelsea’s defence has been shaky in recent weeks and they won’t be looking forward to facing Wilson.
Like Wilson, Mason Mount has been named in the England World Cup squad. It is more likely that he will get substantial minutes in Qatar, as he is well liked by Southgate. He could be used in midfield or as part of the front three. His versatility will boost his chances of getting on the pitch. Although he is in the squad, it hasn’t been a great season for Mount. He has struggled to contribute in the final third as regularly as he did last season. The midfielder has two goals and two assists. He will know that he needs to improve over the rest of the season. It will be a tough game on Saturday, as Newcastle have been in electric form. However, Mount has shown his quality at the highest level and he can impact matches like this one. A strong showing on Saturday could help him make the starting eleven in Qatar.
Callum Wilson is expected to feature after recovering from an illness. Joelinton is back from his suspension. Ryan Fraser will be missing with injury, while Alexander Isak remains out.Jorginho is a doubt with a knock. Ben Chilwell, Reece James, Kepa Arrizabalaga, Wesley Fofana and N’Golo Kante won’t be available until after the World Cup break.
It has been a long time since Newcastle were favourites in a home game against a top six team. This weekend, they have to be considered as the most likely winners. They are scoring goals for fun and they haven’t lost at St James’ Park this season. Chelsea have looked poor in recent weeks and have been the worse team in matches against Manchester United and Arsenal. Newcastle are arguably playing the best football in the division at the moment. If both teams perform to the level they have in recent weeks, it should be a home win.
Newcastle United 2-1 Chelsea