4-4! Four-four! Four-all! No matter how many times I write it, I still can’t believe it. 4-4 against Aston Villa on Boxing Day was a post-Christmas shambles, we were all still full up with turkey and all the trimmings yet that debacle was still rammed down our throats. Now, just three days later, we have to pick ourselves up again and prepare for a visit from Sam Allardyce’s Newcastle United. No strangers to defensive blunders themselves of course, we could see a 6-6 based on the slapstick defending witnessed against Villa. But it’s worth it to see all this attacking football, right Roman?
Casualties from the Villa thriller are both high-profile and plentiful. Ricardo Carvalho is suspended following his attempted murder on Gabriel Agbonlahor while Ashley Cole is likely to be replaced by Wayne Bridge. Tal Ben-Haim should take Carvalho’s place in defence but before you all groan, remember that we had what looked like our strongest back-line out against Villa. And that went well didn’t it? Attacking football apparently needs no defenders.
Frank Lampard pulled up and exited the game on Wednesday and goalscorer supreme Andriy Shevchenko limped off with a sore calf leaving both players doubtful for the Newcastle match. Florent Malouda (hmm, the name rings a bell) is apparently not far from full fitness while Michael Ballack will hopefully continue his impressive return from ankle surgery with a place in the starting XI. Juliano Belletti is also expected to take Paulo Ferreira’s place at right-back.
Under-pressure Magpies boss Allardyce is still seething following his own side’s Boxing Day pantomime performance. It was only the Wigan fans laughing as the Latics came away with a 1-0 win against a lacklustre Newcastle side who barely managed a shot on goal in the entire 90 minutes. Expect them to come out all guns blazing and embarrass us then!
While Allardyce couldn’t call on Michael Owen for that game, his quest for fitness may bring him a spot on the bench at Stamford Bridge. There will be a welcome return for former-Blue Damien Duff, back after eight months on the sidelines. With our wingers seemingly unable to cross, could we have him back for a day please Sam?
Last season we struggled past Newcastle with a goal 15 minutes from time courtesy of Didier Drogba handing us a narrow 1-0 win. That was before the great attacking football experiment though, nowadays opponents obviously don’t stand a chance at the Bridge. Expect that 6-6 I was talking about then!
Prediction: Who knows? We are becoming harder to predict than the lottery numbers, and are making things hard for ourselves. We sit seven points behind leaders Manchester United and truth be told, we are not showing title-winning performances. I hope we can get back to winning ways against Newcastle so my head is saying a 1-0 win. My heart says different, but there’s been enough negatives in this preview already so I’ll keep it to myself! Just hold a lead this time lads and don’t concede another four, then we’ll be on our way again.