Chelsea head to the North East for the second time in a week when they face Newcastle United at St James’ Park on Saturday. After suffering back to back defeats at Newcastle in recent times, the visitors will have to up their game going into this one if they’re going to maintain their unbeaten start to the season.
Newcastle’s 2-0 win in this fixture last season bemused Jose Mourinho, as his side just didn’t turn up despite coming up on the back of a good run of form. That should act as a warning here, to make sure the team aren’t too complacent after starting the season in such fine fettle.
After not suffering a defeat in 21 games in all competitions this season, complacency should be something the Blues boss will be looking out for. It’s hard to imagine him as someone who would put up with such an approach, given his overtly driven nature and incredible single-mindedness.
The Blues took a sloppy Tottenham side apart on Wednesday night without ever seeming to hit top form. They played some lovely stuff at times, but you always felt that they could kick on further if Spurs had managed to magically get themselves back into the game. If the side keeps playing like that, there’s bound to be a point at which they don’t work hard enough, don’t play well enough (or both), and pay the price. The longer this unbeaten record continues, the bigger that price might be.
At least we can now see that Jose knows his strongest team. The right wing position was the one that hadn’t been settled, but Willian’s good form of late, coupled with whatever has happened to Andre Schurrle, has lead Mourinho to settling on a starting 11. Chelsea will need to perform as well as they can at Newcastle, even if the home side’s recent spell of good form has dried up. After a five game winning run, the Magpies have earned just a single point from their last two games, their momentum is starting to wane.
Mourinho will need to juggle things a little on Saturday, with Nemanja Matic out suspended after picking up his fifth yellow card of the season against Spurs. Mourinho recently called Matic his best player, so he’s going to be a big miss for this trip. However, striker Diego Costa will return to the side after he served a similar suspension, although there’s going to be a little bit of pressure on him with Didier Drogba and Loic Remy both scoring in his absence in midweek.
Costa should still start, but at least it means the other strikers should be high on confidence if called upon. Other than Matic, who’ll likely be replaced by either John Obi Mikel or Ramires, don’t expect many other changes to the first 11. Given the league leaders’ form at St James’, Mourinho can’t afford to change that team too much ahead of this difficult tie and it could be a tough afternoon for all concerned.
LCN Verdict: 1-1