Chelsea faces a second consecutive away match this weekend when they travel to St James Park to take on Newcastle United. Following the dramatic late surrender of two points, on Wednesday night, against Reading, Chelsea supporters will be hoping that Rafa Benitez can pull the proverbial rabbit out of the hat and orchestrate a turnaround in our fortunes, although I wouldn`t bet on it.
As we head off towards St James Park, and a difficult fixture against Alan Pardew`s Newcastle United, perhaps our Spanish full back, Cesar Azpilicueta has hit the nail on the head when, in an interview with the media, he`s commented about teams not fearing us, remarking,
“When you win you get more respect. Teams will be scared of us when we start winning games in a row.”
Have we lost that fear factor we used to possess?
Can it be recovered under the tutorship of Rafa Benitez?
Newcastle Team News:
Alan Pardew went Frenchman mad in the closing stages of the January transfer window bringing in several of the reference race in Mathieu Debuchy, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Yoan Gouffran, Massadio Haidara, Moussa Sissoko and Kevin Mbabu, how many will start against us remains to be seen.
However, Pardew will be glad that his decent centre back Fabricio Coloccini didn`t leave Tyneside in the transfer window after expressing a desire to leave Newcastle.
As for players absent through African Cup of Nations duty, Pardew has Tiote and Ben Arfa absent.
Player to watch: Cisse
Anybody who was at Stamford Bridge last season will not forget those two magnificent strikes that beat Petr Cech all ends up, a dangerous operator who we`ll have to keep a watch on.
Chelsea Team News:
Rafa takes his squad to the north-east with two players still away on international duty at the African Cup of Nations , namely Victor Moses and John Obi Mikel.
On the injury front Rafa will be without Oriol Romeu, who is side-lined for the season, whilst the Chelsea supporters will be hoping that Juan Mata can shake off the ankle injury that saw him limp off, in midweek, in the fixture against Reading. Still recovering from injury as well is David Luiz.
On a similar note, Chelsea supporters will be hoping that Petr Cech has recovered from the calf injury that kept him out of the starting eleven against both Brentford and Reading.
Also unavailable, through suspension, is Eden Hazard with the young Belgian serving the last of his three game-ban for the Swansea ball-boy incident.
As for questions relating to the starting eleven:-
? Will Rafa select John Terry at the heart of the Chelsea defence?
? Will Rafa opt for Demba Ba over Fernando Torres?
? Will Rafa persist with Ryan Bertrand out on the left side of midfield?
Player to watch: Demba Ba
It`s an unwritten rule that former player inevitably score the winning goal against their former clubs. The only thing that can prevent that in this fixture is if Rafa opts for Torres up front and keeps Demba on the bench until the 90th minute.
Match Facts & Stats
Chelsea`s recent record against Newcastle is pretty impressive.
In our last 5 visits to St James Park we`ve won 3 and drawn 2
In our last 11 meetings we`ve only lost on the one occasion, that night at Stamford Bridge when Cisse`s wonder goals did for us.
Our officials for this fixture are;-
Referee – H. Webb
Assistant – P. Kirkup
Assistant – J. Brooks
Fourth Official – S. Atwell
Here we go again: trying to predict how Chelsea will perform under the tuition of Rafa Benitez, a manager who it is being reported befuddles his players with instructions and training ground routines. I`ll guess that we`ll endeavour to take the lead, then we`ll sit back and then we`ll probably concede, but after that, who knows? Any confidence I`ve had in predicting a Chelsea result has long gone out of the window. What was that famous line that introduced the Gerry Anderson show Stingray? Something along the lines of anything can happen in the next half hour – it kind of sums up how Chelsea re currently performing after the 60th minute does it not!
Our next fixture will see us welcome Wigan Athletic to Stamford Bridge on Saturday 9th February.