Newcastle head to Stamford Bridge tomorrow evening to take on a resurgent Chelsea who have lost just one game under caretaker boss Roberto Di Matteo.
Realistically it’s a battle for fifth place at the moment, although the result will have a defining impact on where both team are pitching themselves for the end of the season. A win for Newcastle, or a draw, would see the Magpies sour into fourth place again and go four points ahead of the Blues, whilst a win for Chelsea would see us drop to sixth.
You can’t help but feel the importance of this game. If Alan Pardew’s men can recover from the debacle at the DW at the weekend they could just spring a surprise. Remember, we don’t have to qualify for the Champions League like other teams! However springing a surprise will be a monumental task, which I will detail later.
Gary Cahill and David Luiz are both out injured although Branislav Ivanovic is available after suspension.
Peter Lovenkrands, Steven Taylor, Sammy Ameobi and Haris Vuckic all remain sidelined and aren’t expected to feature this season. However on the plus side, Danny Guthrie, Gabriel Obertan and Sylvain Marveaux are all available for selection again.
We lost the reverse fixture at St James’ Park 3-0 earlier on in the season, although the referee can take a large bulk of the credit for the result after failing to send David Luiz off in the opening minutes of the match. Credit to Newcastle though, they still tried and carved out a number of chances although unfortunately none of them found the back of the net.
The overall head to head doesn’t make for good reading, especially at Stamford Bridge. We’ve not won down there (League Cup aside) in the Premier League era although we have managed six draws since 1993! One of those was last season where Steven Taylor grabbed a point for the away side after a late equalizer.
In total there have been 149 meetings between the two sides. Newcastle have won just 48 compared to Chelsea’s superior 62 victories.
Tactics and team selection
So where do we go from here? 4-3-3 didn’t work last time out, neither did 5-3-2 or whatever you wish to call it. Will we stick with the 4-3-3 that has generally served us so well, or will we switch to 4-4-2 perhaps and get both of our strikers in the central area of the pitch, where they can cause the most damage?
I’m not sure on this. Perhaps we can have a mass debate about it?
Whatever happens, happens. I’m looking for an improvement in player application though, especially after the weekend. Getting a result at Chelsea will be tough enough but if the players approach it in the same manner as they did Wigan then getting a result will be out of the question.
Howay the lads!
Date: Wednesday, 2nd May, 2012
Venue: Stamford Bridge