The four-game run on the road ends with the longest league trip of the season. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton make an early start…
Chelsea would welcome a return to winning ways at St James' Park after three successive draws in league and cups, although the Blues remain third in the table, four points clear of Spurs in fourth, with one league defeat in nine outings.
Wednesday's child is full of woe. It may be a silly old fortune-telling rhyme but anyone with kids who support Chelsea will agree it has the ring of truth at the moment. The Blues have yet to win a match in the middle of the working week in 2013.
With Manchester City, Tottenham, Liverpool and Arsenal all drawing, a win at Reading, had Chelsea held on, would have made a real difference in the chase for Champions League places.
Instead a two-goal lead was squandered against a newly-promoted side for the second time in three league matches. It was also our third 2-2 draw in five matches, the other coming against lower league opposition, Brentford, in the FA Cup.
The brace of late strikes was reminiscent of Rafael Benitez's first away game in charge, the 1-3 defeat against West Ham, who scored in the 86th minute and then stoppage time.
On both occasions the Blues seemed in control of the match for an extended period but failed to take the chances that might have killed the game, then ran out of steam and lost defensive organisation.
Newcastle United, unhappy sufferers of the last-minute goal this season (there were three in the last 10 minutes against Arsenal alone), lost at home to Reading last weekend with the Royals' substitute Adam Le Fondre netting twice as he did against Chelsea.
The Magpies were the last team in all four divisions to win an away game this season and moved this week to strengthen their squad after a disappointing campaign.
As a result the Gallic on Tyneside contingent lurched towards 50% with the arrival of Mathieu Debuchy, Yoan Gouffran, Massadio Haidara, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and Moussa Sissoko.
In response the hostelry adjacent to St James' Park, the Strawberry, has temporarily rebranded itself La Fraise, while supporters have draped themselves in garlic and brandished a tricolor emblazoned with 'Oui club' - a pun on Sir Alex Ferguson's dismissive comment about the north-east side.
The man working to eclipse Arsène Wenger for Frenchness since 2010 is chief scout Graham Carr, formerly with Manchester City and Tottenham, and father of stand-up comedian and 'Chatty Man' Alan.
Yet has he filled the considerable gap upfront left by the sale of one of his 'discoveries', Demba Ba to Chelsea?
The Senegalese netted 29 goals in just 54 matches during a season and a half on Tyneside but is unlikely to receive a similar welcome to Hughie Gallacher, another 27-year-old star striker who went south 83 years earlier (see We Have History section).
None of the strikers who hit the net for Chelsea in our 3-0 success at St James' last time around - Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou and Daniel Sturridge - remain at the club. Eden Hazard, who netted his first league goal in our 2-0 victory at the Bridge earlier this season, is suspended. Fernando Torres was also on the scoresheet.
Frank Lampard had a penalty saved in that game. The Chelsea midfielder reached double figures for the 10th consecutive season against Reading and now has 196 goals in all competitions, just six shy of Bobby Tambling's all-time record 202.
Yossi Benayoun, recently returned from loan at West Ham, was a substitute at the Madejski Stadium, the midfielder's first action for the Blues since August 2011. His participation ruled him out of a move on the final day of the transfer window as no player may feature for more than two clubs in one season.
Victor Moses and John Mikel Obi play their first match of the knockout phase at the Africa Cup of Nations against Ivory Coast on Sunday. Moses scored twice to ensure his country qualified from the group stage but the Nigerians will return to England should they lose to Drogba, Tioté and co.
Barclays Premier League fixtures
QPR v Norwich 12.45pm - Sky Sports
Arsenal v Stoke 3pm
Everton v Aston Villa 3pm
Newcastle v Chelsea 3pm
Reading v Sunderland 3pm
West Ham v Swansea 3pm
Wigan v Southampton 3pm
Fulham v Manchester United 5.30pm - ESPN
West Brom v Tottenham 1.30pm - Sky Sports
Manchester City v Liverpool 4pm - Sky Sports
|Barclays Premier League table|
The race for the Premier League Golden Boot
Robin van Persie (Manchester Utd) 18
Luis Suarez (Liverpool) 17
Demba Ba (13 for Newcastle) 14
Michu (Swansea) 13
Race for the Premier League Golden Glove
Joe Hart (Manchester City) 11
Petr Cech 9
Asmir Begovic (Stoke) 9
Simon Mignolet (Sunderland) 9
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WE HAVE HISTORY
Chelsea's first ever away match in the top flight was played at St James' Park, with the hosts edging it 1-0 through a Ronald Orr goal. The Geordies were defending First Division champions at the time.
The Pensioners' visit in 1930 was also the first trip of the campaign following promotion, but is embedded in history for drawing a crowd of 68,089, a record for the stadium to this day.
The exceptional attendance was largely attributed to the return of the brilliant 27-year-old striker Hughie Gallacher (pictured below front right), who had moved south in the summer in return for £10,000, close to the highest ever paid. Newcastle's Jack Cape scored the only goal of the game.
Home supporters penned a rhyme for his return:
There's a canny little lad
Who once made all Tyneside glad.
He's the greatest living player in the game.
He's a clever, brainy Scot,
And we like him quite a lot,
We all know that good old Hughie is his name.
How he thrilled us with his pranks
In Newcastle's forward ranks,
And his football was the talk of all the land.
Though they keep us in the dark,
Why he left St James' Park
'Tis a thing we really cannot understand.
He is nimble, he is neat,
Has a pair of tricky feet,
And a style that really is a treat to watch.
He is quick upon the grass,
Never wastes a single pass,
We all know that is because he's proper Scotch.
May he always do alright,
To supporters bring delight,
May he often chance to score a winning goal.
And we all wish him success
As a player we confess
Of the Chelsea team he is the life and soul.
The Blues' biggest win on the banks of the Tyne came in March 1961 and as was so often the case back then it was a red letter day for Jimmy Greaves. The inside forward, a graduate of Chelsea's Juniors scheme, ran riot, scoring a four times to mark his 150th appearance in a 6-1 victory.
The tally also took him to 35 for the season - surpassing the club record of 32 he had set just a few years earlier in 1958/59. Remarkably, he had hit 118 in fewer than four seasons.
This was also the first occasion Chelsea had hit six in a First Division match, a Ron Tindall brace completing the rout for the visitors. Duncan Neale netted a consolation in the last few minutes.
Back to today and Chelsea are looking to extend our unbeaten run against Newcastle at St James' Park to seven games (four wins, two draws) since the 1-0 defeat at the end of our Premier League winning 2005/06 season.
Newcastle's win at Stamford Bridge last season is their only victory in our last 11 league meetings.
Our last 10 league meetings at St James' Park
2001/02 - Chelsea won 2-1
2002/03 - Newcastle won 2-1
2003/04 - Newcastle won 2-1
2004/05 - Drew 1-1
2005/06 - Newcastle won 1-0
2006/07 - Drew 0-0
2007/08 - Chelsea won 2-0
2008/09 - Chelsea won 2-0
2010/11 - Drew 1-1
2011/12 - Chelsea won 3-0
The reverse match this season
25 August 2012 Premier League
Hazard pen 22
Chelsea v Newcastle in all competitions
Games played 152
Chelsea wins 64
Newcastle wins 49
Head to head in the League at St James' Park
Games played 67
Chelsea wins 16
Newcastle wins 34
Biggest league win at St James' Park for each team
16/11/1974 - Newcastle 5-0 Chelsea
25/03/1961 - Newcastle 1-6 Chelsea
Chelsea dropped points away in the Premier League: 63
Newcastle beat Chelsea at St James' Park: 2,463
Arsenal won a trophy: 2,813
Liverpool won the league: 8,308
Visit again tomorrow for part two of the Briefing.