The fixture list has served up tea-time on Tyneside for the Blues this weekend. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton study Saturday’s match…
Newcastle’s nightlife is rightly famous and Chelsea will hope the happy hours on Saturday evening can serve up an intoxicating two-for-one: victory for the Blues would complete the league double over the Magpies for the second successive season.
Last season at St James’ Park, the Londoners earned a late 2-1 win thanks to DeAndre Yedlin deflecting Marcos Alonso’s shot into his own net. In fact, Newcastle have taken just four points from their last eight Premier League games against the Blues, losing the last three.
Statistically, though, this remains Chelsea’s fourth-toughest place to claim all three points based on all-time Premier League results, with a win percentage of just 29.2.
The Blues won the reverse fixture at Stamford Bridge 1-0 back on 19 October, with a 73rd-minute goal from Alonso. And over this campaign, Chelsea are one of only three top-flight sides to have earned more points away than at home (the others are West Ham and Southampton).
Chelsea have won seven of the past 10 league games on the road. Only Liverpool have managed more.
— Key Stat
Clear week benefits
Newcastle ended their three-game losing streak last weekend with a hard-fought draw against Wolves at Molineux, but were in action again on Tuesday, beating Rochdale in an FA Cup replay at St James’ Park. Meanwhile another free midweek meant Frank Lampard could prepare his team for the longest domestic trip in the top-flight.
The head coach was certain the same situation contributed towards the 3-0 beating of Burnley at the Bridge last Saturday – our first league win at Stamford Bridge since Aston Villa in early December, and the second successive clean sheet there in all competitions.
‘We could work hard all week,’ he said, ‘and I think you saw the fruits of it out there.’ So happy was he with the downing of the Clarets that for the first time since the Europa League final in 2013 Chelsea used no substitutes. The last occasion that happened in the league was a 4-0 triumph at Bolton in October 2009 under Carlo Ancelotti.
With Jorginho the only ‘holding’ midfielder (as in the autumn wins against Newcastle and Brighton), Lampard selected Ross Barkley, Reece James and Andreas Christiansen, and praised the team’s higher tempo and positivity in moments of transition.
Now there is a full league programme to follow on Tuesday and Wednesday, of course, before the FA Cup trip to Hull next weekend.
The Burnley game demonstrated the importance of chemistry between complimentary pairs of players, such as James and Callum Hudson-Odoi down the right.
However, the England winger’s first ever Premier League goal was set-up by the other full-back, Cesar Azpilicueta, who is rather generous to our Academy youngsters in that respect. The Spaniard assisted Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s breakthrough strike against Aston Villa in 2016, as well as Tammy Abraham’s at Norwich this season.
That was the Blues skipper’s third assist this season, the same as James, Alonso, Mateo Kovacic, Mason Mount and Kurt Zouma have contributed across all competitions. Hudson-Odoi is on four, Abraham and Willian five apiece, and Christian Pulisic six.
Meanwhile, Jorginho made it six goals from six penalties taken, and his third in the Premier League since arriving at the Bridge in 2018.
FA Cup and Champions League catch-up
After three straight wins in the Championship, our FA Cup hosts next weekend Hull lost 1-0 at home to Fulham at the weekend. They play away to Frank Lampard’s former club Derby on Saturday.
Champions League foes Bayern return to Bundesliga action at Hertha Berlin on Sunday. Last weekend a strong line-up (minus Robert Lewandowski) surprisingly lost 5-2 in a friendly at second-tier Nuremberg.
Dozens of new injuries were suffered by Premier League players over the intense festive period, when the pause between games can last as little as 48 hours. Specialists also warn that the seeds of problems will also have been sown, only showing themselves up to six or eight weeks later.
Newcastle had four players hobble off in a 20-minute period against Leicester, prompting Steve Bruce to describe the schedule as ‘ludicrous’ and a hyperbolic local newspaper to depict it as ‘the New Year’s Day massacre’.
At one stage since then the Magpies’ injured players numbered 13, but many were ‘back on the grass’, as Bruce put it, against Rochdale on Tuesday. Still more are expected to return for Saturday, including centre-back Fabian Schar and striker Allan Saint-Maximin.
Whatever his personnel, Bruce has bemoaned his team’s ‘glaring frailties’ in front of goal, and only Brighton have a lower chance-conversion rate than the Geordies, who have also attempted the third-fewest shots.
Forwards Saint-Maximin and Joelinton have contributed a goal each, while midfielder Jonjo Shelvey leads the way with five. Miguel Almiron, who had none to his name after 17 games this season, has since notched twice in five outings.
One-time Sunderland coach Bruce has lost more league games against Chelsea (16) than anyone except his former playing side, Manchester United (17).
Race for fourth
Fourth-placed Chelsea are five points clear of Manchester United, nine ahead of Tottenham and 11 above Arsenal. Along with Bayern Munich, those three will visit the Bridge over the coming weeks, forming a potentially season-defining series of matches.
This weekend the closest challengers for fourth spot are also away from home. The Red Devils are at Liverpool, Sheffield United face the Gunners, Wolves go to Southampton and Spurs take on revitalised Watford.
Looking up the table, Leicester are now six points ahead in third having lost three of their past five games in the league. They did, though, thrash a depleted Newcastle 3-0 at St James’ Park on New Year’s Day. The Foxes, who will miss influence of midfielder Wilfred Ndidi until the end of next month, are at Burnley on Sunday.
Arsenal will be without 16-goal marksman Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang when they visit the Bridge on Tuesday as the striker’s appeal against the red card shown last weekend at Crystal Palace was dismissed.
Chelsea Women will learn who their Conti Cup semi-final opponents are when the draw takes place at 3.50pm on Saturday, live on BT Sport 1. Emma Hayes’ side’s past two campaigns ended in the last four against Man City.
Wednesday’s impressive 5-0 FA Youth Cup victory over Bradford City means another home tie in round five for Ed Brand’s Under-18s, with Wolves who beat Palace last night the visitors.
Premier League fixtures
Watford v Tottenham 12.30pm (BT Sport)
Arsenal v Sheffield United 3pm
Brighton v Aston Villa 3pm
Manchester City v Crystal Palace 3pm
Norwich v Bournemouth 3pm
Southampton v Wolves 3pm
West Ham v Everton 3pm
Newcastle v Chelsea 5.30pm (Sky Sports)
Burnley v Leicester 2pm (Sky Sports)
Liverpool v Manchester United 4.30pm (Sky Sports)
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