PRE-MATCH BRIEFING: CHELSEA V NEWCASTLE UNITED - PART ONE
Our first Saturday home game of 2014 brings visitors down from the north-east. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton look at the next leg of the title race…
Chelsea's wizards lifted Manchester City's cloak of invincibility on Monday. This was a thrilling, statement victory. The Blues did not park the bus as Fleet Street's finest universally predicted. They joy-rode it through the Manchester midfield, slalomed it around their defence, did wheel-spins in their flower beds and left it, doors open and engine racing, on their front lawn.
When the manager brings on a substitute - Demba Ba - in the dying seconds solely to mark the opposition goalkeeper and defend a corner, and that sub heads the ball to safety, you know the alchemist still has his spells book.
Jose Mourinho said afterwards the title race comprised 'Two horses and a little horse, that still needs milk and to learn how to jump.' The Portuguese is nobody's foal and was simply being realistic. Man City will not come up against a team like Chelsea every week.
Some recent Blues sides might not have been able to sustain the energy and high press for as long. This one will now believe they can, and against a battered, belligerent Newcastle United they may well have to. The Magpies' home thrashing last week meant for the first time in 91 years they have lost three successive games to local rivals Sunderland.
Yet no matter how miserably Geordie McIntyre fared long ago on his trip to the Smoke (according to Alan Price's 'Jarrow Song', played at St James' Park in honour of every visiting Cockney side), Newcastle have won their last four away games in London.
Our Etihad showdown was one of the last of this campaign to feature the yellow ball, used between November and February (although this season it started on 26 October). The 'Yellow Ball' tables below serve as a measure of competence over the winter period and this season's points total is already by far the best from the Blues in recent years.
In fact you have to go back to the introduction of the 'High-Vis' football in 2004/05 to find the best performance: 42 points gained from just 16 games in Mourinho's debut season. That sequence formed the bedrock for a successful assault on the title. A difference this time is that City and Arsenal matched or bettered us. (By the way, note Man Utd's figures.)
|'Yellow Ball' Top 5|
|Man City||16||37||Man Utd||17||44||Man Utd||14||32||Man Utd||16||37|
|Chelsea||16||36||Tottenham||17||31||Man City||14||29||Man City||17||32|
The fifth successive clean sheet on the road is perhaps the juiciest fruit from the seeds of defensive organisation sown in the first half of the season, and the defence has repelled all shots at Old Trafford, the Emirates or the Etihad.
PREMIER LEAGUE CLEAN SHEETS
West Ham 11
However, Alan Pardew will have alerted his side to Chelsea's two clean sheets in nine matches at home in the league. His team are faring better on their travels and have lost only once in five games.
Mourinho will have been quick to highlight the stunning level of performance his team achieved in the fortress of the title favourites earlier this week. A championship-winning season is usually peppered with such performances as opposed to the one that saw two points dropped at home to West Ham.
Chelsea are now protecting the last unbeaten home record in the top flight but must win to avoid another shortfall like the one against the Hammers, West Brom, Stoke away… and Newcastle at St James' Park.
The Novocastrians can be exposed by high-tempo play and that was sometimes in short supply during those Chelsea performances. However, Eden Hazard is becoming a dashing, shape-changing forward with increasing regularity.
He is the perfect illustration why Mourinho, with Willian, Nemanja Matic and Mohamed Salah brought in and Cesar Azpilicueta preferred, has invested time and money in pace. It also explains why Oscar, such a vital team member all season, was omitted from Monday's starters - he is not quite as explosive as the trio asked to kick off in Manchester.
Also key to Monday's success was the all-angles harassment of City's lynchpin Yaya Toure by Matic and Willian. Willian's high-tempo work exemplified that of all three attacking midfielders, countless times nicking the ball off the toe of Toure or his bewildered partner Martin Demichelis.
The interplay between Matic and co also ensured the influential Ivorian had to do the midfield dog job more than he likes.
Two moments where Chelsea's Serbian midfielder shuddered into, dispossessed and carried the ball away from his Mancunian counterpart indicated Mourinho knew exactly what he was doing buying him back from Benfica.
Matic's one-touch passing under pressure also compares with that of the club's current maestro in that department, John Terry.
Terry is the highest-scoring Premier League defender from open play since 2008 with 18 goals. After his City winner Branislav Ivanovic (pictured below) is third highest on 15, behind the 17 notched by Gary Cahill - another remarkable achievement by the trio.
Cahill was one of three Blues players to see an effort rebound off the frame of Joe Hart's goal. Hitting woodwork three times in one game is less common than might appear. Only two other league sides - Liverpool and Hull City - have registered the same level of dashed hopes in one game this season.
A man who ran onto the pitch during last weekend's Tyne/Wear derby was widely applauded by fellow Newcastle fans when he tried to hand manager Pardew his season ticket. It seems harsh on Pardew and his staff when one considers Toon are just nine points off fourth place. However that 0-3 home derby defeat followed the sale of their best player, Yohan Cabaye, while no one has come into the squad on a permanent basis for two transfer windows.
The Toon manager warned that not replacing Cabaye - infamously dubbed 'Kebab' by Joe Kinnear, the club's technical director - with a footballer of similar quality 'would leave us vulnerable.' That did not happen and perhaps Kinnear skewered himself - he has recently left his post.
A Chelsea victory would be our 65th against Newcastle in all competitions and place them equal with Everton as the club against whom we have recorded the most wins.
Elsewhere it is London versus Merseyside this weekend. The new six-point gap between third and fourth heaps pressure on Liverpool to beat leaders Arsenal in the early Saturday game and retain the Champions League qualifying slot ahead of rivals Everton. Anfield has been the toughest place to visit recently but Arsenal have remained consistent on the road so far.
The Toffees face a tricky Sunday trip to Tottenham, who still harbour their own elite European ambitions. Man City travel to Norwich, who find goals hard to come by at the best of times.
Barclays Premier League fixtures
Liverpool v Arsenal 12.45pm - BT Sport
Aston Villa v West Ham 3pm
Chelsea v Newcastle 3pm
Crystal Palace v West Brom 3pm
Norwich v Manchester City 3pm
Southampton v Stoke 3pm
Sunderland v Hull 3pm
Swansea v Cardiff 5.30pm - Sky Sports
Tottenham v Everton 1.30pm - Sky Sports
Manchester United v Fulham 4pm - Sky Sports
|Barclays Premier League table - top eight|
Since the November international break, the Blues have won 32 points from a possible 39. Only Man City with 34 have won more in the same period.
Chelsea have gained 14 points from losing positions this season, still the best record in the Barclays Premier League.
The Blues have won 12 of the 14 league games we have opened the scoring.
Chelsea are nine points up compared to the corresponding 24 fixtures last season.
We have kept eight clean sheets and conceded just two goals in our last 10 league and cup matches.
Chelsea have the tightest defence in the Premier League, conceding only 20 goals in 24 games including 10 clean sheets.
Chelsea have won 17 and drawn four of our last 21 home Premier League games, since QPR won at Stamford Bridge on 2 January last year.
Jose Mourinho is unbeaten at Stamford Bridge in all 88 domestic games in open play.
|Last six results|
|Jan 5||Derby (FA Cup a)||W 2-0|
|Jan 11||Hull (a)||W 2-0|
|Jan 19||Manchester United (h)||W 3-1|
|Jan 26||Stoke (FA Cup h)||W 1-0|
|Jan 29||West Ham (h)||D 0-0|
|Feb 3||Manchester City (a)||W 1-0|
League games since
A home win: 1
A home draw: 0
A home defeat: 21
|Chelsea's next three games|
|Tue 11 Feb||West Brom away||7.45pm|
|Sat 15 Feb||Man City (FA Cup 5th round) away||5.15pm|
|Sat 22 Feb||Everton home||12.45pm|
If selected, Branislav Ivanovic will make his 250th appearance for the club as well as his 150th Premier League start.
Frank Lampard's next converted penalty will be his 50th for the Blues. His next goal will be his 250th in his club career (Chelsea 209, West Ham 39, Swansea 1).
If fit and selected, Fernando Torres will make his 100th Premier League appearance for Chelsea.
4 League championships, last in 1927
6 FA Cups, last in 1955
1 Inter Cities Fairs Cup in 1969
1 FA Charity Shield in 1909
Newcastle have been Premier League runners-up twice, in 1995/96 and 1996/97. Their last major piece of silverware was the Inter Cities Fairs Cup in 1969 when they beat Hungarian side Ujpest Dozsa 6-2 over two legs.
The Magpies have a better away record than at home this term. They have picked up 19 points on the road from a possible 36 compared to 18 points from 12 games at St James' Park.
Only Arsenal and Tottenham, with eight, have won more away than Newcastle's six.
Maximum points have come at Aston Villa, Cardiff, Tottenham, Man Utd, Crystal Palace and West Ham, their one draw came in their last away game at Norwich, and five defeats to Man City, Everton, Sunderland, Swansea and West Brom.
Newcastle have failed to score in five of their last six Premier League games.
The Magpies have lost the last 15 Premier League games when they have been losing at half time.
Alan Pardew is the second longest serving manager in the Premier League.
Days in charge: 1,157
|Newcastle last 10 year league history|
|Last six results|
|Jan 1||West Brom (a)||L 0-1|
|Jan 4||Cardiff (h)||L 1-2|
|Jan 12||Man City (h)||L 0-2|
|Jan 18||West Ham (a)||W 3-1|
|Jan 28||Norwich (a)||D 0-0|
|Feb 1||Sunderland (h)||L 0-3|
Premier League scorers (32)
Remy 11, Cabaye 7, Gouffran 6, Ben Arfa 3 (1 pen), Cisse 1 (pen), Debuchy 1, Dummett 1, Sissoko 1, own goal 1.
League games since
An away win: 1
An away draw: 0
An away defeat: 2
Completed January transfers
Ins Bertrand Traore (Bobo-Dioulasso, undisclosed), Nemanja Matic (Benfica, undisclosed), Mohamed Salah (Basel, undisclosed), Kurt Zouma (Saint-Etienne, undisclosed)
Outs Juan Mata (Man Utd, undisclosed), Kevin De Bruyne (Wolfsburg, undisclosed), Sam Walker (Colchester, undisclosed), Ryan Bertrand (Aston Villa, loan), Bertrand Traore (Vitesse Arnhem, loan), Patrick Bamford (Derby, loan), Kenneth Omeruo (Middlesbrough, loan), Nathaniel Chalobah (Middlesbrough, loan), Josh McEachran (Wigan, loan), Michael Essien (AC Milan, free), Jon Muleba (Bournemouth, undisclosed), Matej Delac, FK Sarajevo, loan), Billy Clifford (Royal Antwerp, loan), Kurt Zouma (Saint-Etienne, loan), Lamisha Musonda (released), Gael Kakuta (Lazio, loan), George Saville (Brentford, loan extension), Milan Lalkovic (Walsall, loan extension)
Ins Luuk De Jong (Borussia Monchengladbach, loan)
Outs James Tavernier (Rotherham United, loan), Harris Vuckic (Rotherham United, loan), Jonas Gutierrez (Norwich, loan), Yohan Cabaye (Paris St Germain, undisclosed), Curtis Good (Dundee United, loan)
THE MAN IN THE MIDDLE
Howard Webb is the referee for his fourth Chelsea match this term. He was the official for our defeat at Everton and home victories over Man City and Liverpool.
Newcastle's Loic Remy is suspended.
Visit again tomorrow for part two of the Briefing.