Chelsea’s tumultuous holiday period culminated in a 5-3 defeat at the hands of Tottenham on New Year’s Day. After losing their first match of the season to Newcastle on December 6th, The Blues rattled off three consecutive 2-0 league victories, secured top spot in their Champions League group and progressed in the Capitol One Cup. Seemingly back on track, Chelsea were then held to a draw at Southampton and conceded five for the first time since October 2011.
Despite the poor performances, Chelsea are still alive in all four competitions and are top of the league, tied on both points and goal difference with Manchester City. Furthermore, Chelsea have fewer difficult fixtures remaining in the second half of the season. While Chelsea’s only remaining away fixture against a top seven side from last season is against Arsenal, City still have to travel to face Everton, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United.
Chelsea welcome Newcastle to Stamford Bridge on Saturday (10:00 AM EST), looking to get back to winning ways. The Blues are yet to give up points at home and will be confident of the three points against a Newcastle side that recently parted ways with manager, Alan Pardew. Interim, John Carver takes over for a team that sits tenth in the Premier League and has won just once in its last six matches.
Chelsea manager, Jose Mourinho, will remain on the touchline for Saturday’s game despite being charged with misconduct by the FA for claiming that a campaign exists against Chelsea by Premier League referees. The misconduct charge follows a formal warning Mourinho received for remarks about the referee prior to his team’s 2-0 victory against Stoke on Decemeber 22nd.
Mourinho should be less concerned with the referee’s performance, and focus on his team’s defensive efforts, which were far from acceptable during the recent match against Tottenham. The team has received its most rest between games since early November and should be well rested heading into the match against Newcastle. With a fully healthy squad, Mourinho has a number of options to replace the poor performers in the back.
Petr Cech got the start in midweek against Watford in the FA Cup after Thibault Courtois injured his finger against Tottenham. It is believed that the injury is not a serious as initially suspected and that Courtois will be back in net on Saturday.
Understandably so, Chelsea’s defense has received a bulk of the criticism in recent weeks, with Gary Cahill being at the center of the abuse. The England international was to blame in a goal scored by Newcastle, as well as a number of the goals scored by Tottenham. Cahill has started all twenty of Chelsea’s league fixtures and has looked particularly sluggish in recent games.
Kurt Zouma, who has yet to start in the Premier League, was again impressive in cup play against Watford. The 19-year-old looks destined to continue in a line of impressive central defenders that have controlled Chelsea’s back line for the last fifteen years. The likes of which include fellow Frenchman Marcel Desailly, Ricardo Carvalho and John Terry.
Terry still captains the Chelsea side and is an ideal partner for the young Zouma who will be keen on making an impressive debut should Mourinho decide to rest Cahill.
Branislav Ivanovic is another Chelsea defender who has been far from great in recent times. The center back converted to right back is often praised for his play and is perhaps the most overrated player in the Premier League. The Serbian is often out of position after venturing forward and in most instances looks incapable of producing a decent cross into the box.
It is possible that Cesar Azpilcueta could be moved to right back while Filipe Luis comes in on the left. Azpilicueta was the only bright spot in the back four against Spurs and has been impressive defensively all season long. Luis on the other hand is the most capable of Chelsea outside backs going forward. A standout for Atletico Madrid last season, the Brazilian has shown glimpses of his ability for Chelsea in the few opportunities he has been given.
Chelsea’s midfield trio of Nemanja Matic, Cesc Fabregas and Eden Hazard has been among the most consistent and impressive performers throughout the season. Matic is the team’s backbone, winning tackles decisively and quickly the distributing the ball to the more attack minded midfielders. Fabregas is the player to provide the decisive ball through, leading the league with 14 assists.
Hazard can do it all. First on the team in chances created, second on the team in goals, and third in assists, the Belgium is being touted as the next player to surpass Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo for World player of the year at just 24-years-old.
Oscar who started the campaign well, has failed to impress in recent weeks and could find himself on the bench come Saturday. Fellow Brazilian, Willian, scored a screamer from 20 yards out against Watford and looks to retain his place in the starting eleven.
Ramires played ninety minutes for the first time since October in midweek and is fit to start should he be called on to replace Oscar.
Diego Costa scored his 14th Premier League goal in 17 appearances on New Year’s Day and will be keen to add to his total on Saturday. After being rested against Watford, Costa will be at full fitness against The Magpies.
Loic Remy scored in midweek but remains behind Costa and often Didier Drogba in the pecking order. However, Remy may be called upon in midfield to play on the left side as he has on a number of occasions this season. The Frenchman started their against Watford and could prove a more useful finisher than Oscar.
Via – Lineup Builder