MX23RW : Sunday, July 22 03:15:21

Premier League

Dec 2, 2017 at 12.30pm UK
Chelsea
3-1
NewcastleNewcastle United
Hazard (21', 74' pen.), Morata (33')
FT(HT: 2-1)
Gayle (12')
Clark (45')

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Preview: Chelsea vs. Newcastle United

Sports Mole previews Saturday lunchtime's Premier League meeting between Chelsea and Newcastle United at Stamford Bridge.

Champions Chelsea welcome Newcastle United to Stamford Bridge on Saturday lunchtime, aiming to maintain their solid run of form and keep a bit of pressure on leaders Manchester City.

Tottenham Hotspur were the only members of the top seven to slip up in the midweek round of fixtures, meaning that the Blues remain third in the table and 11 points adrift of the impressive pacesetters.


Chelsea

This matchday last year saw Chelsea pick up a 3-1 victory away at Manchester City for their eighth win on the spin, a run that would take in 13 victories in succession en route to their second Premier League title in three seasons.

The Blues' most recent title success can be put down to the winning mentality instilled on his group of players by boss Antonio Conte, and 12 months on something similar way well be happening at Stamford Bridge.

Five wins from their last six Premier League games, most recently edging past strugglers Swansea City 1-0 on Wednesday evening, has placed the defending champions behind only Man City in the current form table.

Unlike last year, though, Chelsea have a serious challenger in the form of the Citizens, who have made the best start to a Premier League season of any side, accruing more points and goals than the Blues' previous record breakers of 2005 and 2010.

All Conte's men can do is continue racking up the wins and hope for any sort of slip-up from a near-perfect City side, and with a string of fixtures to come against mid-to-lower-half opposition this side of the New Year, there is every hope that this momentum will continue building.

As well as collecting 16 points from the last 18 on offer, the Blues have also lost just one of their last 10 matches in all competitions - 3-0 to Roma on October 31 in a defeat that led to a frank discussion between players and coaching staff.

Despite their improved fortunes of late, Chelsea still find themselves 11 points behind City and three adrift of Manchester United, with Conte admitting that his side can forget about top spot until they first claw back the Red Devils.

Three more points this weekend are a must in that regard, then, but the West London outfit have been far from formidable on home soil this term - losing two and drawing one of their seven games, while also firing blanks in two of those.

Recent form in Premier League: WWWWDW
Recent form (all competitions): LWWWDW


Newcastle United

Newcastle head to the capital occupying 12th spot in the Premier League table after 14 games, having now gone five matches without a victory since beating Crystal Palace six weeks ago.

The Magpies did manage to stop the rot somewhat in midweek, however, by battling back from two goals down to rescue a 2-2 draw away at West Bromwich Albion - a potential turning point for Rafael Benitez in a strange campaign to date.

Having seen his side win three games in a row, Benitez's men now have just one win in their last nine top-flight outings - 1-0 against Palace on October 21 - and are among a clutch of sides battling it out in the middle of the table.

Newcastle have conceded two goals in each of their last three matches, coinciding with the absence of skipper Jamaal Lascelles, who was also off the field when Bournemouth netted their stoppage-time winner earlier this month during that losing run.

Benitez will arguably be more concerned about his side's attacking displays, however, having scored just 13 all term - best epitomised by the fact that Ciaran Clark joint-leads their scoring charts with two to his name.

The recent abject performances leading up to the West Brom match led to talk of Newcastle's players being somewhat disinterested, but Benitez claims that the spirit shown to salvage a point at The Hawthorns proves that his players care about wearing the famous shirt.

More victories will be required for supporters to start feeling excited once again, though, as takeover talks continue to rumble on into the final month of the year and questions remain about the true quality of the playing squad.

Five points on their travels since returning to the Premier League, and just the solitary away win in 18 attempts at this level, points to another tough afternoon in West London, but happier times may well be on the horizon for the Toon Army.

Recent form in Premier League: WLLLLD


Team News

Conte opted to leave out some big names for the visit of Swansea, including the rarest of rests for Cesar Azpilicueta, who was omitted from the starting lineup in a league game for the first time since December 2015.

Tiemoue Bakayoko was also given the night off and Eden Hazard, back to his best in a more central role behind Alvaro Morata, brought off the bench to help see things through.

All three are expected to return to the team to face Newcastle, while Danny Drinkwater is also pushing for a starting spot and Victor Moses could come in after making his injury return in the week.

As far as the visitors are concerned, Jonjo Shelvey, Rob Elliot and Javier Manquillo are all in line for a recall after being dropped to the bench against West Brom.

Joselu has struggled up top, meanwhile, meaning that Aleksandar Mitrovic - never truly trusted by Benitez - may finally be given a run in the team, while Dwight Gayle is another option.

Central defender Lascelles remains absent, though, while both Paul Dummett and Christian Atsu are still not ready to return to action for the Magpies.

Chelsea possible starting lineup:
Courtois; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Cahill; Moses, Bakayoko, Fabregas, Kante, Alonso; Hazard, Morata

Newcastle United possible starting lineup:
Elliot; Yedlin, Clark, Lejeune, Manquillo; Merino, Shelvey; Ritchie, Perez, Murphy; Mitrovic


Head To Head

Newcastle have won one of their last five meetings with Chelsea in the Premier League and last picked up a victory at Stamford Bridge in February 2014.

Following a run of four wins in six against the Blues, it is now two defeats and a draw in the last three encounters, most recently going down 5-1 here 21 months ago.

Overall Chelsea boast the better record across their 160 previous meetings, with 69 wins and 52 defeats since they first faced off in 1907.


We say: Chelsea 3-0 Newcastle United

Chelsea have found themselves level at half time in each of their last three home league matches, before going on to pick up all three points. An underwhelming away record for Newcastle, combined with the Blues' improved form, points towards a comfortable home victory.


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