Newcastle United will be desperate for a win in Saturday’s teatime clash to kick-start their season, but face a tough test against a Chelsea side that is working its way up the Premier League table.
One thing that counts in their favour is that visiting boss Jose Mourinho has still never tasted victory on Tyneside, experiencing frustration on each of his six visits in all competitions, but given the way the Magpies are playing at present, achieving a positive result here looks set to be an uphill task. Just one goal since the opening weekend of the season is a statistic that speaks for itself, while since the international break they have been lacking in commitment and intensity as well as quality. Defeat to Sheffield Wednesday in the Capital One Cup in midweek has only made matters worse.
Head Coach Steve McClaren really needs a win to prove himself to the Newcastle faithful, who made their frustrations clear during and after the last league game at home to Watford, where they were accounted for by a poor display made worse by some extremely careless defending. This was emphasised most by left-back Massadio Haidara incomprehensible decision to try and nutmeg an opponent deep inside his own half, a moment of misguided nonchalance which led to the goal that effectively sealed their fate.
After a similarly sub-standard start to the season, the last week and-a-half has been much more positive from a Chelsea perspective, as they easily saw off Maccabi Tel-Aviv in the Champions League and then made the most of their two-man advantage over Arsenal to claim just their second victory in six domestic outings in 2015-16. There has been a clear improvement in their attacking play, leading many to believe that they will soon restore their place among the leading contenders, and they indeed clear favourites to win this one.
However, all of this has been overshadowed by the sequence of events which led the game against Arsenal to swing emphatically into their favour, all instigated by the reprehensible behaviour of striker Diego Costa. The Spain international has since been charged with violent conduct and begins a three-game suspension here, so the purists should at least expect the football to do the talking in this encounter, rather than his petty, though far from inconsequential, shenanigans.
Darryl Janmaat has recovered from illness in time to play for Newcastle, but they are without Papiss Cisse and have doubts over Haidara, Rolando Aarons and Jack Colback. Striker Aleksandar Mitrovic is back following suspension.
Oscar, Pedro Rodriguez and Willian are all available for Chelsea, but Costa serves the second game of his ban.
Last Meeting: Chelsea arrived at St. James’ Park in December 2014 boasting an unbeaten record and a considerable lead at the top of the Premier League, but were stunned by an inspired performance from the Toon Army and clinical finishing from Papiss Cisse, who scored two close range efforts on the break. Didier Drogba pulled one back moments after the hosts had seen Steven Taylor sent off, but the leveller never arrived.
Played for both – Damien Duff: The talented Irish winger joined Chelsea from Blackburn Rovers in the summer of 2003 and became a vital member of Jose Mourinho’s first title-winning squad of 2004-05. He helped to win the league again a year later and eventually left for Newcastle having scored 14 goals in 81 league appearances. He scored five times in 65 Premier League matches while in the North East, but it was his own goal which condemned them to relegation in 2009.