There were a couple of positives to take from last weekend’s 1-1 draw at Palace, however it was largely another poor performance – only this time we were fortunate enough to come away with a point.
We showed some grit, didn’t give up or fold after going 1-0 down, but if it wasn’t for a host of Benteke misses, VAR or Wilson’s moment of brilliance we’d have been comfortably beaten.
That’s not being negative, that’s just a realistic take on our most recent performance. We’ll have to be much better in every department if we’re to get anything from Chelsea this weekend.
The Blues arrive after battering Norwich 7-0 at Stamford Bridge last Saturday. They were taken to penalties by Southampton in Tuesday night’s EFL Cup clash and look set to be without Romelu Lukaku once again, however they are formidable opponents even without the Belgian.
We’ll have to improve defensively to cope with there marauding wing-backs, creativity from midfield and interchanging attackers up top, not to mention the fact they’ve conceded just three league goals in nine league games so far this season – highlighting the challenge awaiting us at the other end of the pitch.
Saying that, Brentford proved a few weeks ago that they can be got at. The Bees had 17 shots that night and conceded just one effort on target in the process. I
t still ended in defeat but was arguably the most rattled Chelsea have looked in a long time, giving Graeme Jones the perfect blue print to potentially replicate going into Saturday’s game.
Martin Dubravka has been declared fit and available for the first time this season after training for ’12 days’.
Jonjo Shelvey is available again after serving a one-game ban at Crystal Palace, while Miguel Almiron and Joe Willock will be pushing for recalls.
Jones has confirmed that Paul Dummett and Elliot Anderson are the only two players ruled out of this one.
For Chelsea, Kovacic has joined Lukaku, Werner and Pulisic on the sidelines, however Azpilicueta and Christensen have both been passed fit.
Predicted line ups
(5-3-2): Dubravka – Manquillo, Krafth, Lascelles, Fernandez, Ritchie – Willock, Hayden, Almiron – Saint-Maximin, Wilson.
(3-4-3): Mendy – Azpilicueta, Thiago Silva, Rudiger – James, Kante, Kovacic, Chilwell – Mount, Havertz, Hudson-Odoi.
I’d love to see Dubravka come straight back in – he’s a communicator who can help organise our defence – and think Jones might just hand him a start now he’s fit and available.
Fernandez could also come back into the side after another poor showing from Ciaran Clark last weekend, although I am perhaps saying that more in hope than expectation.
In midfield, Willock and Almiron’s energy and pace could be beneficial against a top Chelsea side who’ll give us plenty of running to do, meaning they could be preferred to Longstaff and Fraser.
The latter was largely anonymous at Crystal Palace, with this also being a game that could suit Almiron’s ability to work hard, track runners and burst into space when opportunities to counter arise at the other end.
It would be typical Newcastle United if our first win of the season came against the league’s leaders and the current champions of Europe, however I just can’t see us avoiding defeat here.
They’re rock solid at the back, conceding just three all season, yet have an array of quality in attack – highlighted by their 7-0 thrashing of Norwich last weekend.
Our best hope could be to catch their wing-backs high up the pitch and get at the ageing Azpilicueta and Thiago Silva – two players ASM, Wilson and Almiron could have for pace – but perhaps our biggest challenge will be keeping it tight at the other end.
Prediction: Newcastle 1-3 Chelsea