The Opposition Opinion is back for another round of Premier League football after the dreaded international break, and this week I’ve been chatting to Chelsea fan Raj ahead of our trip to Stamford Bridge.
Here we are looking to bring you a view from ‘the other side’ before each game, chatting to an opposing fan to gain their opinions on NUFC, some insights into their own side and their thoughts on our upcoming match.
Here’s what Blues fan Raj has had to say ahead of today’s game:
Q1 – What have you made of Chelsea’s start to the season under new boss Frank Lampard? Keen to know the general mood at Stamford Bridge coming into this one..
“The Mood in Stamford bridge this year has been very positive and optimistic even with the odd draw and defeat. This shows the love fans have towards Frank Lampard.
“Even the performance against Man Utd, where we lost, we still walked out holding our head high knowing that wasn’t a real reflection of what we could achieve. And to be fair I think that shows when you look at the league table.
“We aren’t completely settled yet, but it is starting to take shape and our start looks to have set good foundations for us to really challenge for a top 4 spot, which at the start of the season we couldn’t have been sure about.
“But with that foundation in place and confidence in the squad, top 4 is something we could definitely achieve. It also helps that Man Utd, Tottenham and Arsenal are all look very shaky.”
Q2 – What are the strengths and weaknesses of this new-look Chelsea side – both as a team and individually? Give us your key men to watch out for and, at the other end of the scale, any weak links we could exploit..
“As a team, our weakness has got to be our defensive unit. This is something you can see during transitions and leaves us vulnerable to the counter attack. At the moment this is something that really does stand out, but I feel once we have most our players back, such as Kante, we will be okay.
“The player that does really weaken this team has to be Zouma for me. He is a good defender, but his composure is something I question many times throughout a game and his passes look very lazy. If you compare his passing ability to Tomori you can see the conviction and execution in the pass is terrible in comparison.
“When it comes to our strengths, it’s the athleticism and versatility of this team.
“We can break extremely quickly and the players all have that thirst to get forward and score. It is almost like Frank Lampard himself is urging them to be the player to get that final touch or be that late runner.
“A player to watch we must focus on Tammy Abraham. He currently sits joint top goal scorer and will be full of confidence coming back from an England call up. He has got the right attitude to get forward and keep running. You see that by him needing to be subbed off. Before he needed 5 chances and he maybe put one away. Now he seems more clinical. I would say that’s just confidence.”
Q3 – What do you make of this Newcastle side under Steve Bruce and which players do you see as the strengths and weaknesses in our team?
“This Newcastle team has had a lot of the gloss taken off it since Rafa’s exit and people at the start of the season were not expecting much from them, but Steve Bruce has quietly been going about his business.
“In the way of players I feel Joelinton could have a big say in your fight for survival.
“As a team weakness I would definitely be looking at your midfield. There really doesn’t look like there is a real creative spark in there. Almiron looks like he wants to be that player but is always 30 yards too far in his own half.
“Atsu just never seems to have settled in and Richie just feels like he is losing that pace that’s needed in this league.”
Q4 – What’s the Chelsea starting 11 (and formation) likely to start against us on Saturday? Any key injury issues?
“Due to injury concerns and not having Kante, I think it will be more of a 4-2-3-1 instead of a 4-3-3, with a pivot due to needing 2 players to cover the back 4.
“Kante will always be the biggest miss, but we’ve also seen Christensen get injured during the break.
“I see Callum Hudson-Odoi starting. Again I don’t think he has earned his starting position yet. He has great potential, but as an automatic pick I would decide in 3-5 games, depending on performances.”
“Kepa – Azpilicueta, Zouma, Tomori, Emerson – Jorginho, Barkley – Willians, Mount, Hudson-Odoi – Abraham.”
Q5 – What sort of game do you think it’ll be and how do you see it panning out? Give us a prediction..
“I see this being quite an open game with Chelsea having most the ball.
“Newcastle will set up in the normal way they do away from home especially under Steve Bruce. 11 players behind the ball which I can see creating issues for Newcastle with no out ball. Before with Rondon you really had a great outlet. He had it all.
“Against Man Utd this strategy worked due to there inability to really create in the final 3rd and Newcastle were able to counter.
“Chelsea are currently playing well, and we need to really build on this when it comes to our home games especially. With the momentum and confidence going through the team now, I feel we will come through this game strongly.”
Q6 – Which 3 sides do you see going down this season and why and where do you see Chelsea finishing?
“Norwich, Watford, Southampton.
“Norwich have created this illusion that they are better than they are, and I really thought that might have carried them for a few months but its gone now. They play good football but make too many mistakes.
“Watford. I would never have said this at the start of the season, but they just don’t look like there is any turning it around even with a new manager.
“With Southampton it was normally a player or 2 would come from there youth development teams but it really looks like they have abused their academy. They are not playing good football and it doesn’t look like they know how to score.
“We will finish 3rd and if we perform badly then maybe 4th depending on how we play. The other teams around us don’t look like they will run away and secure a top four spot too soon, so that does give me confidence to say we will be there or there about at the end of the season. “
Q7– If you could sign one player from NUFC, who would you like to see Lampard go for?
“Olly, I am so sorry for this but I don’t think there is a player in the current 11 that would fit into ours.
“I would pick Allan Saint-Maximin because I feel he has the spark to be an amazing Sub for us, but I really wouldn’t know where he would fit in a squad full of wingers and attacking midfielders.
“Guess I’m just greedy. It’s the Chelsea way to stockpile players!”
Q8 – Finally, Tammy Abraham. Rafa Benitez VERY nearly brought him to Newcastle on loan in the summer of 2017, but he strangely opted for Swansea instead. Do you think he’s the real deal and your future number 9 for years to come?
“I remember us having this chat around that time about Tammy and if he would have been a good signing for Newcastle.
“I am very sceptical about Tammy still if I am completely honest. I want to see him go through a tough patch and come through it again.
“He is still extremely young, but he has all the support around him and also the players he has grown up with playing along side him. They know his game, which gives him a boost over other strikers that may come in.
“It really does look like he is set to stay in that starting line up for years to come.”
A big thanks to Raj for answering our questions ahead of today’s game. His concerns over Chelsea’s defensive frailties should give us confidence going into this one, although he does seem excited by several of their young and confident attackers.
Next time we’ll be speaking to a Wolves fan ahead of their visit to St James’ Park a week on Sunday.