Newcastle have endured a difficult start to the season and would kill for a morale-boosting victory at home to reigning champions Chelsea on Saturday (17:30 BST, live on Sky Sports 1).
Newcastle finished just four points clear of the relegation zone last season and have again struggled during the early weeks of the new campaign. They are 19th in the Premier League table with just two points from two draws, four defeats and no wins at all.
Steve McLaren’s (pictured) side were booed from the St James’ Park pitch following their drab 1-0 defeat to Championship side Sheffield Wednesday in the third round of the Capital One Cup on Wednesday. They were loose in possession, created very few chances and had little cause for complaint when their visitors secured passage to the next round with a late winner.
Shot generation has been a real problem for McLaren’s side so far this season. No team in the division has attempted less shots or produced less shots on target than the Magpies. The majority of the money they spent over the summer went towards improving their options in the final third and there has been little return on investment at this admittedly early stage.
The problems up front are mirrored in a defensive unit that has given up the third highest number of shots in the league over the course of conceding nine goals in six matches. Newcastle defended terribly poorly in conceding twice to Watford in a 2-1 home defeat last weekend, and McLaren has much work to do to if he hopes to right his side’s clear frailties.
McLaren will be without the injured Emmanuel Riviere (knee) and Steven Taylor (hamstring) for Saturday’s match, while Cheick Tiote (knee) and Paul Dummett (knock) are also likely to miss out. Jack Colback (knock), Papiss Demba Cisse (knock), Massadio Haidara (knock) and Sylvain Marveaux (groin) are all doubts. Aleksandar Mitrovic returns from suspension.
Chelsea were comfortable winners of last season’s Premier League title but have struggled for form in the early weeks of the new campaign. They sit 15th in the table with seven points from two wins, one draw and three defeats.
Jose Mourinho’s side were 4-1 winners away to League One side Walsall in the third round of the Capital One Cup on Wednesday. First-half goals from Ramires and Loic Remy and second-half strikes from Kenedy and Pedro saw an understrength side make light work of their lower-league opposition to progress to the next round despite one concession.
Chelsea lost just three league matches over the course of last season, so the loss of three of their opening six this time around has certainly not represented an ideal start to their title defence. Last weekend’s 2-0 win at home to Arsenal has, however, given them something to build from, as it suggested that solutions to their early-season issues can and will be found.
The Blues have been solid in attack but had been conceding far too many good-quality chances prior to the win over Arsenal. While their defensive display was aided by their visitors going a man down before half-time, there were encouraging signs. Kurt Zouma added pace to the defensive unit, while Oscar’s industry gave the midfield a better balance.
Mourinho will be without the suspended Diego Costa for Saturday’s match, after the striker was handed a three-match ban for his violent conduct during the win over Arsenal. The injured Thibaut Courtois (knee) will also miss out, while Willian (muscle) is doubtful.
Our Preview’s Newcastle v Chelsea Betting Tips
Newcastle won 2-1 in last season’s equivalent fixture but Chelsea were 2-0 victors in the return at Stamford Bridge. Newcastle have actually triumphed in each of their last three home matches against Saturday’s opponents, while the last 10 league matches between the sides at all venues have seen an even split of four wins apiece and two draws.
Newcastle have problems at both ends of the pitch and McLaren needs to find a solution to one, the other or both fairly quickly if he is to avoid his side getting dragged into a season-long relegation battle. It is still early days, and they will expect to improve once their new signings settle in, but do they need to start getting some wins on the board.
Their first of the season is, however, unlikely to come on Saturday. Chelsea have also made a worse than expected start to the season but even without Costa they still possess sufficient quality in the final third to take advantage of one of the league’s worst-performing defences. They may concede themselves but have enough firepower to take all three points and our preview’s advised betting tips reflect that opinion: