Chelsea visits Newcastle United on Saturday as the premier league is back after the last international break of the year. Magpies, who lost their previous match, will be eager to repeat the result from the past season in the fixture.
A lot has changed since the Blues visited St. James’s Park over a year ago. The mood surrounding the team then was very sour due to their poor form and lack of improvements. It is the complete opposite right now, thanks to their manager, Mauricio Pochettino, and his side. Here are three things to look out for.
1. Effect of break
CFC were in good form as the international break approached. A big away win over Tottenham and an exciting four-all draw against Manchester City were impressive.
Players like Enzo Fernandez and Moises Caicedo have traveled a long way to return after their exploits in South America. A lot will depend upon the short time the squad gets before they travel north.
The same can be said about Newcastle as well. They also have players coming back after a long trip. Players missing through injuries are a concern for both teams. All these will factor into how the fixture will pan out.
2. Who starts for Chelsea?
Pochettino has confirmed Christopher Nkunku still needs time before returning to the squad. His return was one of the main things fans were looking forward to for the return of club football.
As things stand, the same squad that started against Manchester City should be the playing 11. Mykhailo Mudryk will have to be content with a spot on the bench. Caicedo and Fernandez should start despite the possible travel fatigue. The pair started in the first match after the last international break.
Levi Colwill will be back in contention after the injury that caused him to miss the match against the champions and the England duty. Pochettino seems to favor starting him at left back instead of Marc Cucurella, who has impressed so much since his return to the squad. Starting the Spaniard should be the ideal scenario.
3. Battle for European places
Despite Chelsea’s current standing in the league table, a place in Europe for next season will be their priority. Eddie Howe’s side will also expect to match their top-four result from last season.
This fixture last year was a forgone conclusion even before the kick of the ball. But things are very different this time for the Blues. The match is vital for Pochettino to analyze Newcastle before his team hosts them at Stamford Bridge in the quarter-finals of the EFL Cup. The tournament represents the best opportunity for the Argentine to take his team to European football next season while winning a trophy.