As the international break comes to a close, normal service resumes this week with Chelsea hosting Newcastle at Stamford Bridge, and looking to secure the fifth win on the spin under Frank Lampard. The Blues will be aiming to continue on the well trodden form path against a Newcastle side who achieved a remarkable result against a lacklustre Manchester United last time out, and will be aiming for another giant-slaying this weekend.
Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rüdiger remain sidelined, and on top of this, N’golo Kanté has been ruled out of the weekend’s fixture with a groin injury he picked up on international duty, much to Lampard’s dismay. The Chelsea manager was angered by France’s lack of communication in regards to the midfielder’s injury stating:
“We didn’t get him back until after the second game and he’s not fit for Saturday. He then sat on the bench on the evening of the game, so that’s not communication.”
Issac Hayden remains suspended for the visitors and Matt Ritchie is also out with an ankle injury, leaving the vibrant Longstaff brothers a threat for Chelsea to try and quash in what is likely to be an unchanged Newcastle side from the Manchester United fixture.
As well as being massive for Chelsea looking for that fifth straight win as a club this season, Lampard will be personally motivated to try and get the result. The Blues legend is on the verge of a managerial milestone, where this win would earn him his fifth consecutive win for the first time in his managerial career. The signs look good as well, as Newcastle, despite the win against Manchester United, look set to be involved in a relegation scrap and have lost at Chelsea in their last six visits, conceding 17 goals in that period. However, to counter this, Chelsea’s form at home this season has not been the best, with only five of our 14 league points coming at Stamford Bridge and also looking highly susceptible to conceding goals. Despite this, our fortunes have picked up in recent times, with the football being crisper and signs that the team is starting to really gel, with Ruben Loftus-Cheek still to return from injury, and Callum Hudson-Odoi looking sharper every game, the competition for places in the team is really beginning to hot up, and the drive is there as evidenced by the four successive victories. Lampard will be looking to continue this rich vein of form, and potentially carry over his 100% win rate against Bruce as a player into his managerial career.
However, despite the statistics heavily weighing in Chelsea’s favour, there is no doubt that Newcastle are not a side to be underestimated. The Magpies convincingly beat us in Antonio Conte’s final league game in charge, and Pappis Cisse’s wonder strike is not something that has left the memory quickly. Despite the age of both these events, they both show that there is something about the Geordies and their fighting spirit. They are not to be underestimated. In recent times, there is no doubt that these old vintages of Merlot have developed into a bottle of Echo Falls, and their form has been uninspiring under Steve Bruce. But as the Manchester United game evidenced, there is some magic in this side, and that wasn’t just down to Manchester United being poor. Allan Saint-Maximin has shown his electric pace which could be a struggle to deal with, and the Longstaff brothers have been the bright spark in what has been a torrid time on Tyneside. The pair have left much of the football world’s ears burning to their name, and Manchester United’s rumoured bid for one of them shows that there is something there, and they will definitely be the ones to watch this weekend, with Matty Longstaff picking up significant praise from his manager in his pre-match press conference:
“Well, you can imagine what the kid’s been like – it’s like a kid in a sweet shop. That’s why I picked him [against Manchester United]. His [post-match] interview beamed out of the television, what he’s all about. It brought a refreshing humility to us all again and it was a wonderful debut from the kid.
“The big thing now is obviously to try to help him and protect him and nurture him along the way because he’s got a big, big future ahead of him.”
But despite my praise for the Longstaffs, I can’t disregard what our youngsters have been doing over the past few months. I have been privileged to see the fruits of Jody Morris’ labours come about first hand, with Tammy Abraham and Masson Mount spearheading a revolution at Chelsea. With a league high 13 goals coming from English talent at the club, and Tammy Abraham also notching a league high nine goals alongside a certain Raheem Sterling, it fills me with pride. Despite the international break just ending, and everyone no doubt having their tails up for the return of the Premier League, it shows a bright time for the international side ahead of the Euros this summer, and it’s great to be able to see so many potential starlets be involved in this fixture alone.
However, that’s a conversation for another day, but there is no doubt that all of these players will feature in the fixture, and it should be a high scoring affair. However, more importantly, the Premier League is back, and I’m sure not just myself, but everyone is ready for its return.