It was only this time last year that both of these outfits were involved in a race to claim one of the top four positions. One year on, both have faltered incredibly, although Chelsea at least retain hopes of a lofty finish as they approach this game sat in 3rd place. Newcastle on the other hand are looking tentatively over their shoulders.
Nobody can quite understand the campaign Newcastle are experiencing, with the Magpies a completely different outfit to the one that fared so well at this level last season. Instead of making a charge for Europe, Newcastle have been battling at the opposite end of the table and they’re certainly not out of the woods just yet. Alan Pardew’s men find themselves just four points above the bottom three and most of that margin is due to their latest result, a 2-1 victory over fellow-strugglers Aston Villa. Such a win came courtesy of several of Pardew’s recent French recruits and he’ll be hoping that these players have what it takes to draw the North East outfit up the table and out of danger.
For anyone that hasn’t taken much of an interest in the Premier League season this time around, Chelsea’s position of 3rd might not seem too bad. However, when you consider the fact that the Blues are thirteen points adrift of the title and already out of the Champions League, that’s when it starts to hit home what a disappointing campaign the Blues have endured. It could have got a whole lot worse last weekend as well, with the club needing a late strike against Brentford to rescue a draw and keep them in the FA Cup. All of this means there is immense pressure on the shoulders of Rafael Benitez, with some bookmakers even offering short odds that he will be the next manager to be dismissed in the top flight.
As for team news, Newcastle are preparing to be without a couple of players as Hatem Ben Arfa sits on the treatment table while Cheick Tiote represents his country at the Africa Cup of Nations. It’s not all negative for Alan Pardew though, with the Magpies set to hand home debuts to several of their new recruits, while Sylvain Marveaux could feature following a foot issue. Chelsea are faring similarly and the Blues will firstly not be able to rely on Eden Hazard and David Luiz due to suspension and injury respectively. Rafael Benitez will be able to call upon Petr Cech and Juan Mata though, with the duo available again following their respective problems.
In terms of a prediction, we think Chelsea could net the points. Newcastle may have beaten Aston Villa recently, but that was their first decent result in a long time and there’s no doubt that their opponents are far superior on paper.