For the final time this season we bring you the ‘Opposition Opinion’, with us getting some thoughts from London ahead of Chelsea’s trip up to Tyneside.
As ever, we are looking to bring you a view from the other side before this week’s game, interviewing an opposing fan to gain their opinions on NUFC, some insights into their own side and their thoughts on of our upcoming match.
This week we’ve been speaking to Chelsea fan Raj, with him having the following to say ahead of the final game of the season at St James’ Park:
1) What sort of shape are you in coming into Sunday’s final day? Champions League qualification seems a real long shot after the Huddersfield draw, so I’m hoping you’re feeling a little sorry for yourselves..
“We are not in the best of shape at the moment. To be fair, our form all season has been very much up and lots of downs. We have had lots of bad performances.
“It isn’t just the result going against us. After watching the Huddersfield game I have to question last time we did any work in training on attacking shape or attack in general.
“We have to go into the game at Newcastle with a attacking mentality.”
2) It looks like this could be Conte’s last game? With this in mind, do you think your players will gunning to give him a proper send off or could many be protecting themselves with this being one of the last games before the World Cup?
“Due to the World Cup this summer you unfortunately find players turn themselves off a few games before end of the season to prevent injuries etc.
“Things like what happened to the Oxlaide Chamberlain will affect other players to make sure it isn’t them.
“That being said, we have the issue of Champions League qualification. Something is up for grabs and it may be Conte’s last game.
“This, I hope, motivates players to a certain degree. I see this being an end to end game.”
3) What do you make of Newcastle’s season & which players do you see as the strengths and weaknesses in this NUFC side?
“Newcastle season has been a good season.you currently sit 10th which would be a great finish to the season. Especially with all the behind the scene drama right from the start.
“Not selling the club, not backing Rafa in the summer window etc. It seemed a recipe for failure, but as a club you have come through it really well.
“I feel Newcastle’s main threat will always be Shelvey who is one the best passers in the Premier League.
“Apart from that I don’t feel there Is any stand out players. But as a team unit you play very well which helps get over individual limitations.”
4) Likewise, who are the players to watch out for in your Chelsea side? Aside from the obvious, is there any in-form players for us to watch out for and anyone you’d be looking to ‘get at’ if you were Rafa Benitez?
“At Chelsea we only have a few players left who have that heart required to be called a Chelsea player.
“Azpilicueta , Willian and Kante. But the player to watch this season has got to be Alonso. Is there a better striker of the ball with a left foot in the league? Unlike most the rest of the squad, who can be shy to shoot, Alonso loves a swing.
I wouldn’t be surprised seeing him on the scorecard. Also extremely good in the air.
“If I was Rafa I would sit my striker on Gary Cahill and let him press him. His passing ability isn’t good and will see him kicking it back if he doesn’t make a mistake. We have seen other managers do it and it works.”
5) How do you see the match going on Sunday? What sort of game do you see it being? Score prediction?
“I see it being very open game. I feel Conte knows qualification is out our control so he’ll go and play just extremely offensive and give the fans a game to enjoy at the end.
“Very much doubt it be a cagey encounter. 1-3 Chelsea.”
6) Kenedy – he won’t play on Sunday but Benitez is desperate to have him back. How do you see things panning out for him this summer?
“I wouldn’t be surprised to see him back with you next season – but only IF Rafa stays.
“I see it being another loan deal with option to buy at the end.”
7) Rafa Benitez – as an ex-manager of yours, what are your thoughts on him? I was pretty shocked to hear Chelsea fans boo him when we played at your place earlier in the season. He did win you a European trophy after all..
“I am a fan of Rafa. Regarding the boos, he has a strong Liverpool connection which will never allow him to be rated highly by Chelsea supporters. But with all things aside he is a great tactical coach.
“Player management isn’t for him. Great example of that is a interview with Jamie Carragher. Something along the lines of ‘at training sessions after games he would come tell me what I did wrong that game and thats it’. People like Carragher clearly preferred that, however the majority of players (including Gerrard) wanted someone to put a hand on their shoulder and tell them the things they did well for confidence etc.
“He wouldn’t or couldn’t do that. But he could definitely tell you what you improve. At the dnd of the day he wants you to be better. I like that.
“But he will teach your players roles and responsibilities. Amazing coach in that sense.”
8) Tammy Abraham – Rafa thought a deal was all agreed to bring him to NUFC last summer, but he ended up choosing Swansea instead. Was that a big mistake & is he a player who you have high hopes for at Chelsea?
“Tammy was very good in the Championship last season. This happens often with players taking jump from Championship to Premier League. Bramford also had this issue.
“I see him being loaned out again. Hopefully to another Premier League team and then the year after he would have a place on our bench.
“At the current moment he isn’t getting into a Swansea team who have been relegated so that says a lot unfortunately.”
A big thanks to Raj for taking some time this week to speak with us, giving us a good little insight into this Chelsea coming into this one, his thoughts on Rafa and Kenedy’s potential move to St James’ this summer.
Thanks to everyone who has followed this new feature on the blog this season. We hope you have enjoyed and look forward to being back again in August, where we’ll be speaking to fans up and down the country once again for the 2018/19 season!