PMB: Chelsea v Newcastle United - tactics

We conclude our Pre-Match Briefing for today's FA Cup encounter at the Bridge...



•            With Bournemouth the league visitors on Wednesday, Antonio Conte looks likely to hand some regular starters a break this weekend. He has Cesc Fabregas available again but Thibaut Courtois and Alvaro Morata remain injured.

•            The manager will have appreciated his team’s busy start and early goal again on Wednesday, but the lack of a telling response to adversity in the second half, as well as in-form Willian’s hamstring, will be concerns. At least there was no extra-time in this most energy-sapping period of the season.

•            No visiting FA Cup team over the past 19 years has managed to prevent the Blues hitting the net.

•            The Italian may revert to a 3-5-2 formation against the Tynesiders, although they may well come armed with a five-man defence. Ross Barkley made his debut at Arsenal but Conte admitted it was not his preferred option as the recent signing is still working on his sharpness and team tactics. 

•            Kenedy started at left-back in the previous round of the cup against Championship Norwich. The Brazilian has now moved on loan to Sunday’s opponents, so a different solution will be required if Conte decides to give game-heavy Marcos Alonso a day off. The Italian has mentioned versatile Dujon Sterling as a full-back option, but the powerful and talented 18-year-old is more usually a right-sided player. Kenedy is now cup-tied for Newcastle. 

•            As Chelsea fans will remember from his successful time as interim coach in 2012/13, Rafael Benitez is a details man, with the players required to fit into a well-prepared system, and substitutes often worked out in advance. Newcastle’s central midfield duo look to play the ball quickly and incisively to aggressive wingers. There they have former Chelsea player Christian Atsu and inverted winger Matt Ritchie, as well as creative no.10 Ayoze Perez. The frontman, either Joselu or Dwight Gale, will aim to pressure Chelsea’s centre-backs, and turn them for runs in behind.

•            The Magpies’ usual 4-2-3-1 reforms into a 4-5-1 when defending, and they have a tendency to stand off. Under pressure they can give away free-kicks in dangerous areas. Their defence has improved with the return from injury of captain Jamaal Lascelles, who tends to hang back when they are attacking, while Ciaran Clark (pictured below) likes to push into midfield.

•            Defensive middleman Isaac Hayden dropped back to form a five-man rearguard last week at Manchester City, the league leaders winning 3-1 with an 81 per cent share of possession. Benitez asked his front men to press the City backline, but they managed to play through it. The visitors did create chances, mostly with speedy counter-attacks from long balls. Their goalscorer at the Etihad, winger Jacob Murphy, played alongside brother Josh with Norwich against Chelsea in the 2012/13 FA Youth Cup final at the Bridge.

•            Benitez has made it clear the FA Cup is not the highest priority for a club looking to avoid a second relegation in three years. He seems likely to rest players ahead of their midweek game against Burnley.





Thibaut Courtois (ankle)

Alvaro Morata (back)

Willian (hamstring)





Jesus Gamez (ankle)

Florian Lejeune (foot)


Chancel Mbemba (knee)

Aleksandar Mitrovic (back)




Kenedy (regulations of loan)