Chelsea v Newcastle live stream and TV coverage will be shown exclusively by BT Sport as the Premier League returns following a bumper weekend of FA Cup action with a fascinating clash between two teams at opposite ends of the league table.
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A top four finish in his first season in the Premier League would surely be a satisfactory start to manager Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea tenure – and after 21 games of the season, the Italian coach is on course to achieve exactly that.
The Blues sit three points ahead of London rivals Arsenal in the table having emerged relatively unscathed from the Christmas fixture congestion, suffering just one defeat in their last five league games.
However, Sarri’s men were held to a goalless draw against struggling Southampton on their last Premier League appearance – a frustrating result that denied Chelsea the chance to move just two points behind free-scoring Spurs.
Even the red-hot Eden Hazard appeared short of ideas against a resolute Saints back line but the 28-year-old often looked isolated in his attacking efforts with the oft-criticised Alvaro Morata doing little to provide some much-needed cutting edge.
An improved performance against Tottenham in the Carabao Cup on Tuesday saw the Blues come away perhaps unlucky to lose 1-0 at Wembley Stadium as Hazard looked lively once again.
However, without any telling contribution from the prized technician, Chelsea failed to find the net for the second game in succession with his supporting cast of Willian, Pedro and Callum Hudson-Odoi largely ineffectual.
The visit of a well-organised Newcastle United this weekend provides Chelsea with the perfect opportunity to dispel growing sentiment that their form relies too heavily on that of their prized Belgian forward.
Chelsea triumphed in a dramatic 2-1 victory over the Toon at St James’ Park earlier this season, relying on an 87th-minute own goal from DeAndre Yedlin to secure all three points after a late Joselu header appeared to have earned the hosts a point.
It was Hazard’s first start of the season after returning from a lengthy World Cup campaign with Belgium – and since then the former Lille man has continued to impress.
He has been involved in 19 goals this season, tallying 10 strikes of his own and laying on nine for his team-mates – more than any other player in the Premier League since August.
And since the start of last season, only Raheem Sterling, 44, and Leroy Sane, 44, have greater goal contributions for their club than Hazard, 42.
But Newcastle will be only too aware of the danger posed by the fleet-footed forward; Hazard has seven goals and three assists in 11 games against the Magpies, including a strike from the penalty spot at St James’ Park in August.
Shutting down Hazard will be Newcastle manager Rafael Benitez’s top priority this weekend and the master tactician is more than capable of concocting a game plan to stifle the hosts at Stamford Bridge.
However, morale is currently low in the North East with Newcastle dangling perilously close to the drop zone following a miserable run of one win in six that has left them only two points clear of relegation.
Early optimism surrounding a proposed January takeover has long since died down despite rumours that a deal to buy the club from much-maligned owner Mike Ashley remains on the table behind the scenes.
A clearly-frustrated Benitez has so far refused to answer any questions regarding January transfer business but the feeling around St James’ Park is that reinforcements will be hard to come by given the swirling uncertainty at the club.
Benitez is out of contract himself in May and is yet to commit his future to Newcastle beyond the summer; the Spaniard is believed to want more freedom in the transfer market before entering talks over a fresh deal but the club are keen to see him extend his stay before splashing the cash.
While drama is never in short supply away from the pitch, Newcastle fans will be hoping the team can begin making headlines on the pitch sometime soon and a win at high-flying Chelsea would provide the standout result of the weekend in the Premier League.
However, victory would require scoring a goal – a task that has seemed almost-impossible at times this season: only Huddersfield, 13, have scored fewer than Newcastle, 15, in the league.
And history suggests the Toon will find it difficult to score their 16th goal of the season this weekend too having lost on all six of their previous visits to west London, finding the back of the net just twice while shipping 18 goals.
But only Spurs have picked up a greater percentage of their total points away from home this season than Newcastle, providing fans with a glimmer of hope that Benitez can mastermind a much-needed – and well overdue - win at the Bridge on Saturday evening.
Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri: “The match will be very difficult. They are doing better away. It is a difficult opponent away, I think the match will be the same.
“I hope of course to score in the first 30 minutes, but if the match will be the same then we have to be patient.
“We have played very well in the offensive phase but we need to improve in the box, attacking the space.
“We need to score, of course. We need to solve this problem.
“In the last match we played very well, with continuity.
“With a great performance from the physical point of view, but we didn’t score. Now we have this problem. We need to solve this problem.”
Newcastle manager Rafael Benitez: “We know Chelsea are a very good team. They are playing with a high intensity and Spurs struggled against them the other day.
“The top six are miles ahead of the others. In one game anything can happen, but the reality is the money they have spent means they are miles away.
“We have to do what we did up here, when everyone spoke about the tactics, and try to be compact and stay in the game.
“We have to have balance between attack and defence. Just because you defend well doesn’t mean you are only ‘defensive’”.
Chelsea are likely to operate with Hazard as a ‘false 9’, and the Belgian could be flanked by Bayern Munich target Hudson-Odoi. In defence, David Luiz could replace Andreas Christensen after the Dane played 90 minutes midweek against Tottenham in the Carabao Cup. Mateo Kovacic and Ross Barkley are back in contention, with both vying for a starting berth for the visit of the Magpies.
Newcastle will be without Chelsea loanee Kenedy due to stipulations in the terms of his deal. Yoshinori Muto and Ki Sung-yueng are competing in the Asian Cup for Japan and South Korea respectively, so won’t be in contention for the Stamford Bridge clash. Federico Fernandez and Mohamed Diamé are both doubts, too, while Paul Dummett and Jonjo Shelvey are set to miss out through injury.
This fixture has never been short on entertainment for fans of either side, bringing the promise of goals, controversy and unpredictability – if recent history is anything to go by. Newcastle battered Antonio Conte’s Chelsea 3-0 to help secure their Premier League survival last season before an 87th-minute own goal helped the Blues claimed revenge in a 2-1 win at St James’ Park earlier this year. Previous five meetings:
|26/08/18||Premier League||Newcastle 1-2 Chelsea||Joselu; Hazard (p), Yedlin OG|
|13/05/18||Premier League||Newcastle 3-0 Chelsea||Gayle, Perez 2|
|28/01/18||FA Cup||Chelsea 3-0 Newcastle||Batshuayi 2, Alonso|
|02/12/17||Premier League||Chelsea 3-1 Newcastle||Hazard 2, Morata; Gayle|
|13/02/16||Premier League||Chelsea 5-1 Newcastle||Traore, Pedro 2, Willian, Costa; Townsend|
• Chelsea have lost only one of their 23 home Premier League games against Newcastle (W16 D6), a 0-2 defeat in May 2012 under Roberto Di Matteo.
• Newcastle United have lost their last six visits to Stamford Bridge against Chelsea in all competitions, scoring just twice while conceding 18 goals.
• Chelsea have failed to score in their last two Premier League home games. They haven’t gone three without a goal in the top-flight since November 1993 under Glenn Hoddle.
• Newcastle are winless in 12 away league games against ‘big six’ sides (D1 L11), losing the last nine in a row.
• Only Liverpool (3) have conceded fewer home goals in the Premier League than Chelsea this season (8).
• Newcastle have scored just four goals in their last eight Premier League games, failing to find the net in three of the last four.
• Newcastle manager Rafael Benitez has won just one of his 14 away matches against Chelsea in all competitions (D4 L9), a 1-0 victory with Liverpool in the Premier League in October 2008.
• Chelsea’s Eden Hazard has scored six goals and assisted one in five Premier League appearances at Stamford Bridge against Newcastle.
• Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud has scored more Premier League goals against Newcastle than he has against any other side in the competition (8). However, those eight goals all came in his first six games against them, with the Frenchman failing to score in his last five against the Magpies.
• Salomon Rondon has scored each of Newcastle’s last three away goals in the Premier League.
All odds correct with bet365 at time of writing