Chelsea will be looking for its first win in four matches when it travels to St James’ Park to face Newcastle United in the early hours of Sunday morning (AEST). After taking just a point off struggling Reading during the week, the Blues slipped 13 points behind runaway League leaders Manchester United, while the Magpies scored their first win in seven matches with a 2-1 victory over Aston Villa at Villa Park.
Despite collecting three points midweek, Alan Pardew’s side remains in a relegation battle, with just four points separating them from the drop zone. It is a far cry from where Newcastle was just 12 months ago when they were contending for a place in the Champions League. New signings Moussa Sissoko and Yoan Gouffran both impressed in the clubs most recent outing and are likely to keep their spots in the XI but Ryan Taylor, Hatem Ben Arfa and Dan Gosling remain on the sidelines through injury. There could be some relief in the treatment room however, with fullback Danny Simpson in contention to return after breaking his toe against Arsenal on December 29. His inclusion would be a welcome one for the Magpies defence, which has kept just one clean sheet in the past seven matches.
Chelsea squandered a two goal lead against Reading on Thursday morning (AEST), with two late goals from Royals substitute Adam LeFondre condemning the Blues to their third straight draw . Goalkeeper Petr Cech and skipper John Terry could return after missing out for different reasons during the week, as Rafa Benetiz tries to find the right combination at the back. Cech was unavailable after picking up calf strain during the FA Cup loss to Brentford last weekend, while Terry was an unused substitute after Rafa Benetiz elected to give his talisman a break.
Chelsea has one of the best away records in the competition, winning four consecutive League matches on the road prior to the result at the Madejski Stadium during the week. Newcastle fans have done it tough this season, with the club registering just two home wins since October. When these sides met at Stamford Bridge in August, the Blues scored a 2-0 courtesy of first half goals from Eden Hazard and Fernando Torres, while the corresponding game in the North East last season resulted in a 3-0 win for the visitors.
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