The Blues make the longest Premier League trip of the season looking for a three-point-boost ahead of the enforced winter break. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton set the St James’ Park scene…
Saturday nights amid the bright lights of Newcastle are the stuff of legend and Chelsea will be looking for a hero or two in this last league action for six weeks.
So far this term the Blues have completed four matches more on all fronts than the third-placed Magpies, despite their extra league fixture and additional early round tie in the Carabao Cup, as they are not involved in Europe.
When domestic football ends its winter hibernation on Boxing Day, eight days after the World Cup final, Chelsea, who will be in action on 27 December) will still have 24 league matches (almost two-thirds of the season) left to play. A flourish now could lift Graham Potter’s side up to fifth and set up a surge once the many injured have recovered.
Ahead of that, while defeat for the Blues at Man City in midweek freed up the festive calendar, Newcastle’s shoot-out success against Crystal Palace on Wednesday (their first time at home in any competition) will mean a round four tie just before Christmas.
Chelsea remain unbeaten after two previous 5.30 Saturday starts this season, winning at Everton and drawing at home to Manchester United three weeks ago. But the Blues last faced a Newcastle side above us in the table back in May 2012.
Although the hosts are unbeaten in nine games, this corner of the north-east has been a happy hunting ground for the Blues in recent years. In the past 19 league games against the Magpies where the Londoners have opened the scoring, we have won 18 and drawn one. A win for Chelsea would make it three in a row at Newcastle for the first time since September 1958.
Chelsea team news
Trevoh Chalobah has described this match as like ‘a final’ for Chelsea, one the Blues must win to go into the six-week World Cup break on a high. If that is to happen the Londoners will have to rediscover their shooting boots: only five clubs have fired fewer shots in the league than Chelsea (151), and the 11.6 shots per game is our lowest recorded average in a campaign since 1997/98.
Promising goalscoring opportunities were passed over again at Manchester City, and the result was a second blank in succession. Two new Chelsea forwards, though, tend to enjoy themselves against Newcastle. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has had a hand in nine goals in nine appearances against them, scoring six and setting up three. For Raheem Sterling the tally is six in six top-flight clashes with the Magpies: five goals and one assist.
After multiple changes for the midweek game at the Etihad, Graham Potter could reinstate Auba, as well as Thiago Silva, Jorginho (if fit after a foot problem) and Mason Mount, though options are still vastly reduced by injuries. Lewis Hall at left wing-back and midfielder Denis Zakaria can be very satisfied with their contribution against City too.
When still Brighton coach, Potter shut Newcastle’s attackers out this season at the Amex Stadium, using a 3-4-1-2 formation against the Magpies’ 4-3-3.
Six of the Blues’ seven most recent league goals at St James’ Park were scored from the 65th minute onwards.
Big Toon around under Howe
Eddie Howe was appointed a year ago this week, shortly after Chelsea enjoyed a commanding win on Tyneside, but this is a different team to the relegation-threatened one he inherited. Since Howe’s arrival Newcastle have lost only twice in 21 matches at St James’ Park, and before Bournemouth were relegated in 2020 the coach had engineered one or two big wins against the Blues as well as some heavy defeats.
Bolstered of course by £200m of new talent, the Magpies have developed calmness and organisation at the back, and pace, aggression, and effectiveness upfront. Previously criticised players such as rangey middleman Joelinton and winger Miguel Almiron, who has scored eight league goals in 14 games, also look unrecognisable from past seasons.
Of the new blood, central midfielder Bruno Guimaraes’s swagger and trickery have made him a cult hero, while only two players (Man City’s Kevin De Bruyne, 45, and Fulham’s Andreas Pereira, 34) have created more chances for their team than Newcastle full-back Kieran Trippier’s 32.
The Magpies, though, tend to play a game of two halves. Only leaders Arsenal have trailed in matches for less time than the Tynesiders this season, and they are particularly strong before the break, recording 13 goals with only two in reply.
Yet if points from second-half performances alone counted, the Geordies would be just one point better off than the Blues, who have played one game fewer. The hosts have only kept two clean sheets in their last 15 Premier League meetings with Chelsea. Goalkeeper Nick Pope faced the Blues seven times with Burnley and never finished on the winning side, conceding 20 goals.
Joelinton is back from suspension, while fellow midfielder Elliott Anderson and central defender Fabian Schar have returned from injury. Striker Callum Wilson, though, has been struggling with illness.
We have history
Chelsea have won 29 Premier League fixtures against this weekend’s hosts, the club’s most successes against any rival after Tottenham (beaten 33 times).
The Blues 3-0 victory in October last season during Graeme Jones’s brief term of office, came courtesy of two dramatic strikes with either foot from Reece James. A penalty won by Kai Havertz and converted by Jorginho settled the outcome and the win took the Blues three points clear at the top of the league, with the Magpies remaining second from bottom.
That 3-0 equalled our biggest result on Tyneside in the Premier League, set in December 2011 when Didier Drogba, substitute Salomon Kalou and Daniel Sturridge found the net against Alan Pardew’s team.
The Londoners’ best-ever win at St James’ Park came in March 1961. Jimmy Greaves, about to bid the Blues farewell, helped himself to four and fellow former Junior Ron Tindall grabbed two in a 6-1 Toon trouncing by Ted Drake’s team.
World Cup impact across Europe
Premier League football will resume just eight days after the World Cup final, with round four of the Carabao Cup intervening even earlier. All other major European associations are offering their players more time off, notably the Bundesliga. When we face them in the Round of 16 of the Champions League on 15 February, it will be just three weeks after Dortmund return from their winter break.
Major European league breaks
13 Nov – 26 Dec
13 Nov – 28 Dec
14 Nov – 28 Dec
10 Nov – 31 Dec
13 Nov - 4 Jan
13 Nov – 6 Jan
13 Nov – 21 Jan
Mind the gap
The winter World Cup is not the first mid-season pause imposed on top-flight English football, whether planned or not. As recently as 2020, the Premier League had no fixtures for 97 days between 10 March and 17 June in response to the Coronavirus pandemic, while in 1962/63 the ‘Big Freeze’ lumbered Division One with a rash of postponements varying from club to club: leaders Chelsea did not play a league game between Boxing Day and 9 February (43 days off).
Two world wars also forced the suspension of the Football League programme. The first eventually meant no matches from April 1915 to August 1919, and the second ruled out any Division One action from September 1939 to August 1946.
Still top of the world
‘The Crown’ may be back on screens with a different cast but the staging of the World Cup in December means no club equivalent can be played. As a result Chelsea’s world crown will remain in place well into the new year.
Round of 16 opponents
As with Dinamo Zagreb in the group stage, Chelsea have never previously played Round of 16 rivals Borussia Dortmund competitively, though the two met in a friendly at Randall’s Island, New York, many years ago.
The match came in the middle of a lengthy tour of the USA in May 1954, and an attack of appendicitis for Bill Robertson forced Ted Drake’s men to borrow a goalkeeper. The stand-in, English migrant Cyril Hannaby, had lined up two days earlier for regular club Baltimore Rockets against the Blues (with striker Bobby Smith donning the gloves) and he conceded seven. Temporarily jumping ship did the Yorkshireman no favours either: the Germans won 6-1.
Matchweek 16 Premier League fixtures
Saturday 12 November - Premier League fixtures
Man City v Brentford 12.30pm (BT Sport)
Bournemouth v Everton 3pm
Liverpool v Southampton 3pm
Nottingham Forest v Crystal Palace 3pm
Tottenham v Leeds 3pm
West Ham v Leicester 3pm
Newcastle v Chelsea 5.30pm (Sky Sports)
Wolves v Arsenal 7.45pm (Sky)
Sunday 13 November - Premier League fixtures
Brighton v Aston Villa 2pm (Sky Sports)
Fulham v Man Utd 4.30pm (Sky Sports)