Newcastle United host in-form Chelsea on Saturday, with the Blues looking for their third successive Premier League win.
Here’s all you need to know ahead of Saturday’s clash at St James’ Park:
Steve Bruce’s side have been in inconsistent from of late, having picked up an impressive 2-1 win over Everton on 1 November, before suffering a 2-0 defeat to high-flying Southampton in their last fixture before the international break.
That match saw the Saints ease to victory after goals from Che Adams and Stuart Armstrong, with the Magpies putting in an abject performance against a side that has looked reborn of late. In truth, Bruce’s men had ‘keeper Karl Darlow to thank for keeping the score at just 2-0, with the Englishman producing a string of fine saves to spare his side any embarrassment.
With usual Newcastle number one Martin Dubravka working his way back to fitness, Darlow will be hoping he’s done enough to keep his starting berth after some terrific performances that have even led to talk of an England call-up.
What is clear is that with a free-flowing and high-scoring Chelsea side to come on Saturday, the 30-year-old will have to be at his best to repel the likes of Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech if his side are to get anything from the match.
One major positive for Steve Bruce will be the return of Isaac Hayden to the midfield after his absence, while Jonjo Shelvey is nearing a return also. Scotland international Ryan Fraser is a doubt for the visit of Chelsea after pulling out of national team duty, although forward Callum Wilson could make a return after his hamstring injury – picked up in the defeat to the Saints – is believed to not be too serious.
The Blues will go into this weekend’s match full of confidence after a run of form that has seen them net 14 goals in their last four games in all competitions, while they’ve only conceded once in their last six.
Such form has revived talk of a Chelsea title challenge after an indifferent opening to the season, with Frank Lampard’s men finally looking both defensively solid and dangerous in attack.
The presence of Edouard Mendy between the sticks has paid dividends already, while playmaker Hakim Ziyech has taken to English football with ease, priducing another delightful display in the 4-1 win over Sheffield United in the club’s last meeting before the international break.
Chelsea players so far this international break:
Hakim Ziyech: ⚽️⚽️⚽️
Olivier Giroud: ⚽️⚽️
Timo Werner: ⚽️⚽️
Mateo Kovacic: ⚽️⚽️
N'Golo Kante: ⚽️
Callum Hudson-Odoi: ⚽️
Frank Lampard likes this. pic.twitter.com/ibYnOiy0rN
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) November 17, 2020
The Moroccan international has already made four goal contributions in just four Premier League appearances and has made Blues supporters almost forget about the absence of Christian Pulisic and Kai Havertz.
USA international Pulisic is still a few weeks away from returning as he recovers from a hamstring injury, while Havertz is struggling for fitness after he tested positive for Covid-19 earlier this month.
The fact that Lampard’s men can perform so well without such quality players is testament to the squad’s depth, although it will no doubt give the Chelsea legend a real, albeit positive, headache regarding selection once all are available.
Newcastle 1-0 Chelsea, 18 January 2020
If Bruce’s side are looking for any encouragement ahead of Saturday’s fixture, they should look no further than the two sides last meeting back in January.
Chelsea were occupying fourth spot after a solid start to the campaign under Lampard, while Newcastle were without a win in four league games.
In truth, the game was total domination from the visitors, with the Blues having a remarkable 70% possession and 19 shots on goal, yet still couldn’t find away past the stubborn home defence.
That inability to take their multitude of chances was punished in dramatic fashion, as Isaac Hayden snatched a 94th minute winner in what was the ultimate smash and grab.
Newcastle: Darlow; Murphy, Lascelles, Schar, Fernandez, Lewis: Hayden, S Longstaff, Almiron; Saint-Maximin, Joelinton.
Chelsea: Mendy; James, Zouma, Silva, Chilwell; Kante, Kovacic, Mount; Werner, Abraham, Ziyech.
Who is the referee?
How can I watch?
UK and Irish readers can watch the match on BT Sport.
What time is kick off?
Saturday November 21st, 12:30 GMT
Newcastle – 11/2
Chelsea – 4/9
Draw – 15/4