What can Newcastle hope for against Chelsea?

St James' Park.

St James' Park.
A full house for the weekend
I’ve kind of being trying to do a weekly article lately, voicing my hopes and concerns for the upcoming match.

I have already done Manchester City and Manchester United, so let’s give Chelsea a whirl. The London club are the last of the ‘First real tests’ that we face, after a hard few weeks in competition with the League’s finest.

Against Manchester City we were somewhat unfortunate and proved to be a tougher test than they, and some of us to be fair, expected, whilst luck was definitely on our side as we battened down the hatches and came away with a hard-earned point against their red neighbours at Old Trafford last week.

I would say that Chelsea are definitely the weakest of the three teams to face us recently. City have quality in abundance, whilst Manchester United, although not firing on all cylinders, are still extremely threatening, especially at home.

With Chelsea it seems a bit different. Their team is very much in a transitional period, with their big name players that Abramovich assembled into the title winning sides of 2005 and 2006, coming to the end of their careers. Look through their line up in their defeat to Liverpool last week and you quickly realise just how old their team is:

Petr Cech(29), Branislav Ivanovic(27), Ashley Cole(30), David Luiz(24), John Terry(30), Ramires(24), Frank Lampard(33), John Obi Mikel(24), Florent Malouda(31), Juan Mata(23), Didier Drogba(33)

Average Age- 28

Compare that with Newcastle’s team for their game against City:

Tim Krul(23), Danny Simpson(24), Fabricio Coloccini(29), Steven Taylor(25), Ryan Taylor(27), Sammy Ameobi(19), Yohan Cabaye(25), Danny Guthrie(24), Jonas Gutierrez(28), Demba Ba(26), Hatem Ben Arfa(24)

Average Age-24.9

Obviously, the likes of David Luiz and Mata have been purchased recently, but the core of the team from previous title winning seasons (Terry, Lampard, Drogba) will not be together for much longer.

For me, this is why Chelsea are not up there with Man Utd and City. Whereas Alex Ferguson’s side are in a transitional period and have begun the process of buying replacements, Chelsea are left with a team that, at its core, is the same team from around 2004. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. Obviously, the great teams assemble a quality squad and keep the majority of it for years, but for Chelsea, the end is nearing for their core players, and as yet, they haven’t managed to replace them.

Looking through Chelsea’s team, you can see they have been weak in a number of key areas so far this season. Defensively, it is well documented that playing the high line as they have been doing doesn’t seem to be effective. This is illustrated by the fact that they have conceded 17 goals, and that they have already lost four league games.

In goal is another place I feel Chelsea are weak. Four or five years ago many would have considered Petr Cech to be one of the best ‘keepers around, but over the past few years there are a number of times where he has looked alarmingly average. Just take Leverkusen’s winner in the Champion’s league last week:

To me, a keeper of so called ‘world-class’ quality should save that, whereas Cech kind of crouches and reaches, as if pretending to try to get it, but not really. A world class keeper can save you points, as Tim Krul did on Saturday, but a poor keeper can easily have the opposite effect, costing you heavily. I’m not saying I think Cech is a bad keeper, he isn’t, but he definitely isn’t what he once was, and I would like to think some way off our very own Dutch magician.

Offensively, the addition of Juan Mata appears to have improved them greatly. With Drogba not as heavily relied on as in previous years, Torres has begun to show glimpses of a return to form, although his best still seems a long way away. It is in Daniel Sturridge, however, that Chelsea really seem to have found their long term striker. At only 22 he is still not at his best, but last year began to hit form, whilst on loan at Bolton. While with the Trotters he bagged 8 goals in 12 appearances, and since re-joining Chelsea has continued that form, with 7 goals in 14 appearances.

The public perception of the Chelsea game seems to be that out of our most recent matches, it is definitely the one in which we have the most chance of a win, by their own standards Chelsea have been poor this season, and with our home form consisting of four wins and two draws, points are definitely there for the taking.

Last time out in the league, Chelsea beat Wolves comfortably, running out 3-0 winners at Stamford Bridge, but prior to that, defeats in Germany against Bayer Leverkusen, and at home to Liverpool had piled the pressure on Andre Villas Boas, who to me looks more and more like Roy Hodgson with every defeat. Add to that another defeat against Liverpool in the League Cup last night and you get the feeling that Red Roman is sharpening his well used axe.

If we avoid defeat it will signal a very impressive few weeks for the team, who despite losing their unbeaten record, have illustrated that our unbeaten run wasn’t a flash in the pan and can look to kick on with upcoming fixtures against Norwich, Swansea and West Brom.

What do you expect to get from the Chelsea game?

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