Chelsea will be hoping on Saturday that their second meeting with The Magpies this season will bring joy, as the saying goes. Blues fans will not need reminding of the first encounter in Tyneside at the beginning of December, in which Chelsea suffered their first defeat of the season in any competition.
The man who did the damage on that day, however, will not be available for the away side. Papiss Cisse and Cheick Tiote will both be representing their respective countries at the African Cup of Nations – as will Yaya Toure, making Chelsea’s title rivals’ quest for points in January that little bit harder. As well as players missing on international duty, Newcastle are currently struggling with a long injury list, not to mention having just lost their manager to Crystal Palace. The warning signs get worse for the Toon: their away form has been poor and Chelsea have won nine out of nine games at home, keeping clean sheets in seven.
This ominous position that Newcastle find themselves in, however, should make Chelsea even more wary. The Newcastle players stepping in to replace those who can’t play will no doubt be trying to impress John Carver, who is taking care of the first team following Pardew’s departure, and Chelsea’s league form has been somewhat shaky recently.
The fact that for the first time in a while Chelsea have had no mid-week game suggests that Jose Mourinho’s squad will be at full strength, so expect to see players such as Costa, Hazard and Willian returning to the starting line-up, with Chelsea hoping that the latter of those can bring more of the same having scored with a superb strike in last week’s FA Cup tie.
Chelsea will also be looking to use this game to start building up momentum before the crucial home tie against Man City at the end of January, so don’t be surprised to see Mourinho attempting to wrap up the game early on to avoid any last minute scares – the longer Chelsea go without a goal of course the more Newcastle will believe they can win the game, as was the case in early December.