Chelsea have already exited one domestic cup this week, will they be knocked out of a second this weekend? Rafa Benitez takes his Newcastle side to the Bridge for the second time this season, aiming to cause a shock and to add to Antonio Conte’s misery. Having put in two woeful displays in the Third Round against Norwich, the Premier League champions need to up their game ahead of this weekend’s clash. On the back of another two poor displays in the League Cup semis, it feels like Conte has his work cut out with this side.
Of course, it doesn’t seem like this squad will be Conte’s problem for much longer. His midweek outburst following the League Cup semi-final defeat will have only irked the board even more, and there’s a gulf growing between the manager and those above him. Having criticised the club’s transfer policy and claiming that he’s been shut out of discussions over new signings, there’s clear anger from the Italian at the failure to build on last season’s title win. However, that’s only made his exit seem all the more likely. Will he manage to lift a domestic trophy for the first time as a manager before his expected departure this summer?
Team News: Will Conte Risk Changes Following Midweek Cup Exit?
One of the key causes of Conte’s anger in midweek was that the pack of alternatives outside of the first team left him picking youth players to plug the gaps. That wasn’t entirely clear on the pitch – the average age of Chelsea’s side on Wednesday was just over 27. You assume he was talking about Ross Barkley and Michy Batshuayi who came off the bench, but they cost the club a combined £50 million.
Following his outburst, Conte’s team selection this weekend will be very interesting. The two signings he’s been chasing this window – Emerson Palmieri and Edin Dzeko – aren’t going to be wrapped up in time for this clash. Given the Italian’s usual approach in the early rounds of cups is to rotate, he’s likely to make even more changes where possible, although the fitness of Alvaro Morata and Willian could force Hazard into starting.
Newcastle made quite a few changes for their Third Round win over Luton, but will they adopt a similar approach for this clash? Given their hopes of winning the cup are slim, they may rest their big names to focus on the relegation battle. The Magpies are only a point above the drop zone, which should scare them into making changes here. After all, Mike Ashley’s board did once come out and link cup success to relegation for smaller clubs, so they aren’t likely to be desperate for a cup run,
The visitors haven’t got a great record of late, as they’re hanging just above the bottom three in the top flight. They’ve got a side comprised of Championship players, which does make them look a little out of their depth, as they did last weekend when they lost 3-1 away to Man City.
Newcastle have just two victories from their last 10 away, and those came against West Ham and Stoke – two of the league’s biggest strugglers. They’ve lost away to every top half side they’ve travelled to this season, and they have one point from their 11 meetings with the top 10 sides overall this term.
Chelsea v Newcastle Head to Head
Chelsea have had the upper hand against Newcastle in recent meetings, winning their last two on the spin. They’ve won their last five meetings at home with the Magpies, and that run is expected to continue when they visit on Sunday. Having scored 15 goals across their last five games at home to the Toon Army, it’s probably worth backing a high scoring tie here.
- Chelsea 3-1 Newcastle, Dec 2017
- Chelsea 5-1 Newcastle, Feb 2016
- Newcastle 2-2 Chelsea, September 2015
- Chelsea 2-0 Newcastle, Jan 2015
- Newcastle 2-1 Chelsea, Dec 2014
- Chelsea to win and over 2.5 goals – 10/11 with Betfair
- Eden Hazard to score anytime – Evens with BetVictor
Chelsea come into this clash as heavy favourites to progress, you can back them at 2/5 with Betfred. Meanwhile, the visitors are priced at 13/2 with Coral to be victorious. The draw is priced at betting odds of 10/3 with Ladbrokes, although that’s the last thing Chelsea need. With extra fixtures this season already putting strain on the squad, they’re struggling to cope with the demands of the season as it is. Adding yet another cup replay to the mix is not something that would exactly please Conte and his team right now.
Luckily, the Blues are facing a poor Newcastle side who are in awful form on their travels. We can’t see them suddenly turning around their form against the top sides with a result here, especially as Conte is likely to include Eden Hazard out of necessity. We expect a strong performance up front from the Blues, who regained their attacking swagger with a 4-0 win over another promoted side, Brighton, last weekend. With that in mind, we’re going for a home win and over 2.5 match goals as our first tip here, which can be backed at odds of 10/11 with Betfair.
Hazard has proved to be so vital for Chelsea in recent weeks, as he was the main focal point in attack in midweek. Brighton gave him space to roam last weekend, and he punished them as a result. He should play in an advanced role here once again, and we’re backing the Belgian to make an impact against the Magpies. He tormented them last month when the sides last met, and he scored twice in that game. That has us backing him to score again this weekend, and he’s priced at evens with BetVictor to find the net.