With three defeats and a draw, November has been a tough month for NUFC, but December doesn’t look like getting any easier – with us facing Champions Chelsea tomorrow in a tough looking trip to Stamford Bridge.
We salvaged a draw at West Brom on Tuesday, and whilst it was a valiant comeback and precious point to stop the rot, there was plenty to suggest we haven’t learned our lessons from our horror show against Watford last Saturday.
They were getting in behind out wide far too often, with Yedlin and Ritchie’s side looking woefully exposed once again. Two set piece goals got us back in the game against a poor West Brom side, but we’ll be put to bed quite emphatically tomorrow if we don’t wise up defensively.
They’re a side who are particularly good out wide, also playing the same 3-4-3 formation as Watford did last week – a system we could not get to grips with in the hammering at St James’ last weekend.
Thankfully, we’ll enter this in good spirits after steadying the ship with a result in the week, but hopefully we can take confidence from that and be able to put in a far more measured and consistent performance from first minute to last tomorrow – it’ll need to be if we’re to get anything from an resurgent Chelsea side.
Darlow to stay in goal? He did ok on Tuesday and will probably get another shot at it tomorrow ahead of Elliot.
I’d stick with the same back four too. People will call for Yedlin to be dropped, but I don’t think there’s a better right-back at our club – even if he’s been at fault for a few too many goals in recent weeks.
Lejeune and Clark’s communication must be much better tomorrow also – they’ve looked like they’ve never played together before in recent weeks – despite them forming what looked like a promising partnership over pre-season.
Mbemba will hopefully be used at left-back once again. He’s good in one on one situations, times his tackles/interceptions well and will also help manage a pretty big and strong Chelsea side form set pieces too.
I don’t see Shelvey coming back in for this one, unfortunately. We’re not going to have much of the ball and Hayden and Merino are, without doubt, stronger defensively and better in their work off the ball than Jonjo.
I’d personally like to pack the midfield and throw Shelvey in instead of Perez, but Ayoze presses from the front and is another Rafa favourite – especially in games like these where we’ll have to put in a real shift to keep them at bay.
Ritchie and Murphy will be key to anything we get going on the counter – hopefully they (especially the latter) can make the right passes and be on their game in terms of decision making – which is key in the odd moments openings will occur on the break.
Both showed signs of some form at West Brom, so hopefully they can do some damage if wing-backs Alonso and Zappacosta are caught up the pitch.
As explained previously, I expect Perez to start once again for this sort of game (he needs to be more productive on the ball and stop falling over), however it’s Rafa’s decisions up top that’ll be the most interesting from his team selection tomorrow.
Many of you may be baffled as to why I’d ‘expect’ Rafa to start Mitrovic given how often Rafa’s opted against starting him so far this season, but I think he might just get the nod for this one.
He’s almost always opted for Joselu, but the Spaniard looks out of touch, under confident and far less effective than Mitrovic on current form. He may not have wanted to, but even Rafa would’ve seen how Mitrovic gave us much more than Joselu during his late cameos against Watford and West Brom.
Of course, Rafa may somehow put faith in Joselu once again, but I get the feeling he’ll give Mitro his big chance tomorrow – however it could be a game where leading the line is a thankless chance away to the Champions!
With a star-studded side, Chelsea’s quality goes without saying really.
Unfortunately, Eden Hazard – one of the league’s best players – will be coming into this one fresh as a daisy after being rested on Wednesday. He’s been in unstoppable form since returning from injury and DeAndre Yedlin must be MUCH better to contain him.
Alvaro Morata looks a top player. He seems as capable of creating goals as he does scoring them, so Lejeune and Clark will have to keep him under wraps.
Alonso and Zappacosta are attacking wind backs who will give them real width and look to create the problems Watford’s did last Saturday at St. James’.
For an inside look at the oppositions strengths and weaknesses, see this week’s edition of ‘The Opposition Opinion’ where we’ve gained the thoughts of a Chelsea fan this week. A bit of recommended reading ahead of tomorrow’s game! Click here to read it.
Newcastle – 12th (15 pts) – Last 5 in the league – Won: 0 / Drawn: 1 / Lost: 4
Chelsea– 3rd –(29 pts) – Last 5 in the league / Won: 4 / Drawn: 1 / Lost: 0
Once again, we will be without Jamaal Lascelles (ankle) and Christian Atsu (thigh) and Paul Dummett (hamstring), but Rafa has admitted that all three are ‘very close’ to returning.
David Luiz has been ruled out with a knee injury, whilst young winger Charly Musonda is also out (knee).
Hazard, Azpilicueta and Bakayoko look set to return to the team after being rested in the 1-0 home win over Swansea on Wednesday.
Two players linked to NUFC over the summer, Michy Batshuayi and Kenedy, have returned to training, but look unlikely to be involved.
Newcastle United XI – (4-2-3-1) – Darlow – Yedlin, Lejeune, Clark, Mbemba – Merino, Hayden– Ritchie, Perez, Murphy – Mitrovic
Chelsea XI – (3-4-2-1): Courtois – Azpilicueta, Christensen, Cahill – Zappacosta, Kane, Bakayoko, Alonso – Pedro, Hazard – Morata
The last time we won at Chelsea was just over 5 years ago. The game famous for Papiss Cisse’s incredible wondergoal. It might take the same sort of moment for history to repeat itself tomorrow! *Cue Jonjo Shelvey scoring from his own half.
It’s hard to imagine anything other than a defeat here given our recent form, however Tuesday’s fightback to earn a point at West Brom will give us confidence.
It’s stopped the rot, but we’ll have to be so much better than we were at West Brom if we’re to come away with a result here.
Containing there front three and outdoing their energetic and powerful midfield will be a real tough task.
Conceding early would be criminal, but aside from that, we’ll have to carry far more of an attacking threat to trouble them defensively – and that’ll be the key as a clean sheet seems so unlikely on our recent defensive displays.
I think we’ll have a go and be up for the challenge, but a bit like Man Utd away last month, I see them having a bit too much.
Prediction: Chelsea 3-1 Newcastle
Howay the lads!