By Jonathan Pearce
BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
Venue: Stamford Bridge Date: Saturday, 25 August KO 17:30 GMT
Chelsea are likely to be without captain John Terry due to a neck injury, but David Luiz should return after sitting out the 4-2 victory over Reading in midweek.
Summer signing Marko Marin is still sidelined by a thigh injury.
Newcastle boss Alan Pardew will make late fitness checks on four players.
Fabricio Coloccini and striker Demba Ba have had respective thigh and shin problems, while Cheick Tiote (calf) and Shola Ameobi (hamstring) remain doubts.
While Chelsea fans can be forgiven for counting all the jewels in their European crown, Newcastle supporters might be left counting the cost of their return to Europe. This trip to the early season Premier League leaders comes less than 48 hours after their exhausting Europa League play-off trek to Atromitos in Greece.
Alan Pardew will have planned carefully for the double-header and several key players didn’t play in the extreme Greek heat. But the ludicrous match scheduling means that Newcastle will be hard pressed to repeat last season’s fine win at Stamford Bridge with that stunning double from Papiss Cisse.
That victory extended their unbeaten run away at Chelsea to four games. But it has to be remembered that they were playing the Blues just three days before the FA Cup final. Roberto Di Matteo’s players weren’t focused.
They are now though. Chelsea look very strong going forward. Eden Hazard is living up to his billing as one of the most exciting young talents in Europe and the team is now playing to the strengths of Fernando Torres. He could be one of the first strikers to hit double figures this season.
But at the back they don’t look secure. A Petr Cech error was once as rare as a Roman Abramovich TV interview. His performances for club and country in 2012, though, have been dotted with mistakes.
Newcastle will score. I’m confident of that. Someone like Yohan Cabaye, breaking between the lines, may be a surprise first goalscorer from long range. They’ll certainly pepper Cech’s goal. But Chelsea will wear them down in the end. Newcastle of old would surrender – especially in the capital where they’ve historically struggled. But not this side.
I’ll go for a Chelsea comeback to earn a point. But they’ll have to make do with that. Alan Pardew’s team are no one-season wonders.
- Newcastle’s 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge on 2 May was their first league victory away to Chelsea since 1986.
- The Magpies are now unbeaten in their last four league and cup matches at Chelsea (W2, D2). That includes a 4-3 win in the third round of the League Cup in 2010.
- The Blues’ defeat to Newcastle last term is their only home loss in 2012.
- Chelsea have not kept a clean sheet on home turf since beating Barcelona 1-0 in April.
- Fernando Torres has scored five goals in his last eight games for club and country (including the Community Shield).
- John Terry needs one goal to reach 50 in all competitions for the Blues.
- Last season’s win at Stamford Bridge is the Magpies’ only win in their last eight league games in London (W1, D2, L5), a run which included heavy defeats at Tottenham (5-0) and Fulham (5-2).
- Demba Ba’s goal against Tottenham was his first in 15 league and cup games for Newcastle.
- They made 112 substitutions last term – more than any other Premier League side. There were only two games in which they did not use all their replacements, both of which Newcastle won.