A response is needed after last weekend’s uninspiring display at Cardiff and I’m expecting one tomorrow – the question is, will we be good enough to get a result against Maurizio Sarri’s new-look Chelsea?
We trounced them 3-0 at St James’ Park just a few months ago, but that end of season affair against an unmotivated Chelsea side with one eye on the World Cup (with a manager who knew he was facing the sack) will be very different to this one I suspect.
Do I think we can get a result? Definitely. Chelsea may have won their opening two games, but they showed frailties at the back in their 3-2 win over Arsenal last Saturday and are still settling as a team – not forgetting the fact our side know they got one up on many of these players just a few months ago.
We’ll need to be MUCH better than we were at Cardiff, however – because you can almost guarantee that this Chelsea side will pose much more of a threat and show much more energy than they did when we played them here last.
Sarri’s side love to press and attack in numbers, so even if they are left open at the back at times, it’ll be a tough day for our defence.
We’ll need to be switched on at the back, win our battles in midfield (a big performance from Diame and Shelvey is essential) and show much more cutting edge in attack.
Whoever comes in for Kenedy (who’s ineligible against parent club) will need to perform, Perez must up his game and offer much more and there’s also a hope that Rondon (and/or Muto) can give us more than Joselu can in attack to ruffle a few feathers in this fragile Chelsea defence.
Here’s the team I’d like to see, followed by the side I expect Rafa to go with:
Predicted NUFC XI – (4-2-3-1) – Dubravka– Yedlin, Lascelles, Clark, Dummett – Diame, Shelvey – Ritchie, Perez, Atsu – Rondon
Here’s a few ‘ones to watch’ in the Chelsea squad:
Eden Hazard – An obvious one who needs no introduction. Looks set to make his first start of the season and will be their main man to watch. A tough task for Yedlin awaits given how he struggled against Spurs last time out.
Ngolo Kante – Arguably the best holding midfielder on the planet, however he’s been given some license to get forward under Sarri, often finding himself in the box and joining attack. We’ll need to track him on Sunday, with him now adopting more of a box to box role.
Pedro – Has scored in each of his their first two league games and looks bang in form. Will be one to watch for Dummett.
Marcus Alonso – Loves to get forward from left-back and will be one of Chelsea’s biggest goal threats. Ritchie and Yedlin could have a real job on their hands containing him. A threat from free-kicks too.
David Luiz – He’s been reintroduced back into the Chelsea side since Sarri took over. A talented footballer but a centre-back who always has an error in him. Rondon could cause him problems if he’s given the nod.
Predicted Chelsea XI – (4-1-2-3) – Kepa – Azpilicueta, Luiz, Rudiger, Alonso – Jorginho – Kante, Barkley – Pedro, Morata, Hazard.
DeAndre Yedlin has been passed fit by Rafa after missing the Cardiff game, but Kenedy will miss out – being ineligible to play his parent club following a loan move (meaning Murphy or Atsu will come in for him).
Lejeune is ruled out as he continues to recover from his ACL injury. Rondon could make his first start
Cesc Fabregas and Michy Batshuayi have been ruled out for Chelsea, but Eden Hazard looks set to make his first start of the season after cameo roles in their opening two games.
As explained earlier, this will be a MUCH tougher test then we faced last time we met Chelsea a few months ago in May.
If we turn up, show the energy, intensity and discipline required and win out battles from the off then anything can happen, but we must be more clinical than we were against Spurs to get all three points here.
If we can stay solid at the back then I don’t see why we can’t knick a point (their defence does not look too handy), but much will depend on the performances of our front two and Mo Diame in the middle – with Yedlin and Ritchie’s battle with Alonso and Hazard also being one we must keep under control if we’re to nullify their threats.
I think we’ll be much better and expect us to make a game of it, but with Kenedy missing and this new-look Chelsea side welcoming Hazard back, I worry they’ll have too much for us.
Prediction: Newcastle 1-2 Chelsea
Howay the lads!