Chelsea travels to Newcastle coming off the end of the latest international break, here are just a few of the things to watch for int he match.
Yes, it’s true, Chelsea football is back! As the season progresses, it seems as if each international break drags on longer and longer.
Alas, we’ve successfully made it through another hiatus and the Blues will be back on our screens soon.
While the Magpies may represent an underwhelming match on paper, don’t underestimate Steve Bruce’s boys.
Newcastle currently sits 13th, but just four points separate the Magpies from the Blues.
Will Chelsea increase its lead and make it nine unbeaten in all competitions or will Newcastle close the gap?
Here are three things to look for in Saturday’s early contest:
1. How will the Blues regroup?
Being one of the largest clubs in Europe certainly has its perks, but it also has a handful of disadvantages.
This principle is perfectly portrayed during the current season. In a campaign full of crowded fixtures—consisting of up to three games per week plus travel—many of the Blues had to break away from a brief international hiatus.
On the flip side, Newcastle doesn’t particularly struggle with having too many superstars.
All eyes will be on the Blues as they come together and look to implement a game plan in a matter of days.
The Magpies have had around two weeks to prepare to defend St. James’ Park against Lampard’s mighty men.
The question is, will it be enough? Well, that really depends on how Chelsea plays. If the Blues are able to regroup and pick up where they left off, it’s difficult to see any scenario in which they lose.
However, this is exactly why the game is played on a pitch and not paper.
2. The plug and play options
Not everything that glitters is gold. The international break may be a shiny, exciting time for some, but to clubs, it’s a nightmare.
Chelsea was lucky to only have one individual impacted by the break. Thiago Silva is going to miss the bout with Newcastle due to the extensive travel he did with Brazil.
Christian Pulisic (continued rehab) and Kai Havertz (COVID-19 recovery) will likely not feature either.
Ben Chilwell picked up a knock—later revealed to be back spasms—against Belgium. Although, it looks like he’ll be fit to start.
Lampard is now tasked with replacing three key starters. The Pulisic conundrum is a simple fix given it’s plagued the Blues for a few weeks now. Timo Werner will likely start out wide in the American’s place, making way for Tammy Abraham up top. It is the midfield and defense that house the biggest question marks.
In place of Havertz, Mateo Kovacic put in an excellent shift in Chelsea’s most recent league match.
Jorginho is another player who has seen a lot of play time early on this season. The farfetched choice is Billy Gilmour, who has been working his way up to full fitness for the first time since his surgery.
At the back, the gaffer has three options: Andreas Christensen, Antonio Rudiger and Fikayo Tomori. We know Kurt Zouma will occupy one of the two centerback roles, but who is he partnered with? As of late, Lampard has turned to Rudiger, but his centerback selection is a crapshoot every time.
Whoever it is, hopefully the back line will be solid enough to keep Newcastle from scoring or else the Blues could be in for a long day.
3. Lampard’s midfield set-up
As previously mentioned, Havertz will likely miss out on the opportunity to play Tyneside.
This brings into question whether or not Lampard will stay the course with his 4-3-3 or revert back to the 4-2-3-1 for the time being.
Kovacic slotted in superbly against Sheffield United, putting on a performance for the ages. If the Blues stick with the 4-3-3, he’s the obvious choice alongside Mason Mount.
If the manager goes with the 4-2-3-1, it’s probable we see Jorginho named in the starting XI.
The attack has flourished in the former as of late, with N’Golo Kante thriving as a solo, deep lying midfielder.
The choice is fairly obvious, but one never knows with Lampard.
Regardless, the inclusions of Mount and Kante should provide Chelsea with enough to overpower the Magpies.