Our worst start to a season this millennium continues as we welcome a Chelsea side also struggling to find form. Last December this fixture saw Mourinho’s then unbeaten Chelsea taste defeat for the first time that season, to a resurgent Newcastle that had just charged up the table following a November to remember. Today both sides are in poor form and far short of where they’d expect to be at this point in the season, although at least Chelsea have a couple of wins to their name.
It would be fitting for our first league win come against Mourinho, who has never won a match at St James’ Park, and his Chelsea team that have been defeated on their last three visits, but after our traditional cup capitulation on Tuesday, any expectations of a positive outcome are greatly diminished.
Tim Krul took the chance to address his team-mates on the club website following that travesty:
“Everybody has to look at themselves in the mirror and ask if they gave everything. If not, they have to start straight away, because what we are doing at the moment is really not good enough. A couple of players put in good performances but there were also some really bad ones.
“Everybody needs to grow now. We need to come out and show we are real men. Chelsea and Manchester City are two massive games and we have to show that we have got the fight for it.
“We have to try and turn it around on Saturday against Chelsea, with 50,000 Geordies being that extra man that we really need right now. Hopefully they will give us the confidence and lift we need. We need them behind us but we need to show them something, too, and give them something to shout about. It is a two-way street.
“Saturday is a new game and we have to show the fans fight and passion, and everybody needs to put in a proper performance.”
– Tim Krul
McClaren admitted that he and the club are in a precarious position, but has called for patience while we adapt to changes in our “philosophy, culture, standards, training and style”:
“Is the job harder than I thought? Absolutely. Without a doubt. People say it’s a crisis and it’s getting very close to it. We deserve to be criticised.”
“We have a philosophy and we are sticking to it. We will go through painful times but when we get it right, it will be good. We are going through change, and change is painful, tough and hard. Why are we wanting change? Because we’ve won five games in 32.”
– Steve McClaren
Aleksandar Mitrović is back after three games in the sin bin, which means that we have an actual striker available for selection. Papiss Cissé is a continued doubt, and until he finds interest in the game again is probably more use in the stands. Luckily our top attacking threat, Daryl Janmaat, is expected to return, after having been withdrawn at half-time mid-week due to illness.
Paul Dummett, Cheick Tioté, and Emmanuel Rivière are out. Massadio Haïdara and Jack Colback will probably return after missing the Wednesday match due to “knocks”.
Just as our controversial striker returns from a suspension earned against Arsenal, Chelsea lose theirs, as Diego Costa was punished after the Gunners match for violent conduct. The visitor’s only injury concern is Thibaut Courtois, who is out for months.
McClaren has confirmed that Mitrović will return to the squad for this one, and given our current striker situation I expect he’ll be straight into the starting line-up. Other than that I expect no big changes, the only question for me is whether De Jong starts, and who loses their place to him. I’d drop Thauvin in favour of playing Pérez out wide where he can chip in at both ends.
The loss to Sheffield could spur us on to get our season started and to continue our streak of wins at St James’ against Chelsea, but I just don’t see that happening, even if our opponents have also been faltering. Eden Hazard will be playing, so expect at least two goals from him. Mitro gets his first goal and nearly sent off. 1-4.
Where to Watch / Listen
Tickets are still available and will be on sale from the matchday box office from 09:00 up until kick-off, selling tickets from £39 for adults, £32 for senior citizens, £24 for students and those aged 18-21 and £22 for juniors. Family enclosure tickets are also available at £26 for adults and £12 for kids.
The match is televised live on Sky Sports 1, with the main coverage starting 17:00. Local radio commentary, as always, is on BBC Newcastle, while talkSPORT are covering the game nationally.
How do you think we’ll get on in this game? Have your say in our discussion thread.
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