Premier League leaders Chelsea cannot afford to slip up at Newcastle United today (Saturday) with a chasing pack of title rivals all finding their best form in recent matches.
Newcastle drew 1-1 at lowly Burnley in midweek and have taken only one point from two matches after their five-match winning streak ended with 1-0 defeat at West Ham.
Papiss Cisse, whose second-half strike earned the Magpies a point at Burnley, insists a change of style in the second half was key to Newcastle’s fightback.
“It was a good point from a hard game. Of course, our objective was to win the game but the way things went, to come away with one point was good,” Cisse told his club’s official website.
“The first half and second half were very different. We just kept kicking the ball long in the first half and made things very difficult for ourselves. But the gaffer changed things at half-time and that helped us get back in the game.
“We knew we would get back in the game by playing football rather than kicking it long, and when we did that we scored straightaway.”
Chelsea have been the standout team in England’s top flight this season and remain unbeaten with a six-point lead at the top of the table, but with defending champions Manchester City, a resurgent Manchester United and improving Arsenal all hitting their stride, the Blues need to carry on winning.
Jose Mourinho’s side were held to a frustrating goalless draw at Sunderland last weekend but quickly bounced back with a comfortable 3-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday. Diego Costa missed the Spurs match due to suspension, and it was left to veteran forward and crowd favourite Didier Drogba to step up to the mark. The 36-year-old Drogba scored one goal and assisted on another as Chelsea beat their north London neighbours.
Eden Hazard and Loic Remy also tallied for the Blues.
Chelsea’s defence recorded their fourth successive clean sheet in the victory against the Lilywhites.
“It was not easy because they (Tottenham) dominated the early part of the match,” Drogba told his club’s official website. “We then showed our efficiency better than in the previous match against Sunderland.
“It’s a derby, important to win and to continue with three points because other title rivals, like Man City, Man United and Arsenal, won as well.”
Newcastle goalkeeper Tim Krul could be sidelined for up to six weeks with an ankle injury. The Magpies will have both Moussa Sissoko and Jack Colback available after suspension, but there are fitness concerns about Rolando Aarons, Mike Williamson and Fabricio Coloccini.
Injured trio Davide Santon, Siem de Jong and Sami Ameobi have all been ruled out.
Top-scorer Costa (11 goals) returns to the Chelsea squad, but holding midfielder Nemanja Matic is banned after receiving his fifth yellow card of the season in the match against Spurs. John Obi Mikel is favourite to replace Matic as Ramires is still out injured.
Honours were even last term, with Chelsea winning 3-0 at home courtesy of a Hazard hat trick and Newcastle claiming a 2-0 victory on Tyneside with goals from Yoan Gouffran and Remy, who will make his first return to St James’ Park since moving onto Stamford Bridge.
Source: ScoreMobile FC