The international break is finally over and Premier League football is back on Tyneside, as Newcastle United take on Chelsea in Saturday’s 3pm kick-off at St James’ Park.
Two weeks off came at a perfect time. We looked shattered in that 2-0 defeat to Bournemouth, which felt like one too many for a squad suffering with fatigue, the hectic schedule and one of the worst injury/suspension crisis’ we’ve seen for some time at Newcastle.
This feels like a big game as we bid to get back on track. We could go seven clear of Chelsea with a win and put pressure on those above us bidding for the top four, not to mention the boost it would give us ahead of next week’s crucial trip to Paris. Asked about the crucial period ahead of us, Eddie Howe had this to say when speaking to the press on Friday morning:
Sean Longstaff (ankle) is facing a late fitness test and Howe remained coy on Alexander Isak (groin) during Friday’s injury update, but he confirmed that Fabian Schar, Miguel Almiron and Kieran Trippier are all fit to play.
Bruno Guimaraes is back from a ban, but Sven Botman, Callum Wilson, Elliot Anderson, Harvey Barnes, Jacob Murphy, Dan Burn, Matt Targett, Sandro Tonali and Javier Manquillo remain absent, with Lewis Hall also ineligible against his parent club.
For Chelsea, defenders Levi Colwill and Malo Gusto have both recovered from injury, but Wesley Fofana, Romeo Lavia and Christopher Nkunku remain sidelined despite returning to training over the international break.
Predicted line up
(4-3-3): Pope – Trippier, Lascelles, Schar, Livramento – Willock, Guimaraes, Joelinton – Almiron, Isak, Gordon.
Most of the team picks itself given the injuries and fact Schar, Almiron and Isak are expected to be passed fit, but it’ll be interesting to see if it’s Trippier or Livramento at left-back, with one of the two certain to fill in with Burn, Targett and Hall all missing.
In midfield, a lot depends on Longstaff’s late fitness test. If he’s unable to play, it’ll surely be Bruno, Joelinton and Willock, but it’s tough to say who’ll drop out if Longstaff can recover in time from a swollen ankle.
In attack, Isak is our only fit striker, Gordon is our only fit left winger and Almiron is our only fit right-winger! With PSG to come early next week, let’s hope all three come through this one OK.
Chelsea are improving under Pochettino and come into this one after a 4-4 draw with Man City and 4-1 win at Spurs in their previous Premier League away game.
That will give them confidence, but I think we’ll be bang up for this and determined to get back to winning ways after back-to-back defeats to Dortmund and Bournemouth before the international break.
Isak’s return will be a huge boost and it’s a huge relief that Miggy and Schar are OK, too. Isak and Willock to score in a tight but deserved win on Tyneside!
NUFC Blog prediction: Newcastle 2-1 Chelsea