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Saturday 18th January, St James' Park, kick off 5:30pm

by John Spillane

Saturday evening's fixture, which is the 50th Premier league meeting between the two, sees the home side in 13th place take on Frank Lampard's Chelsea, who lie 13 points and nine places better off.

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Newcastle whose squad has been stretched to breaking point by injuries in recent weeks, have lost their last two at home (Leicester 0-3, Everton 1-2) but have the ability to make life tough for the big boys on home ground. Both Manchester clubs have left the North East on the back of poor results, with City drawing 2-2 and United on the wrong end of a 1-0 defeat. Miguel Almiron is finally adding goals (four goals in seven) to his creativity but recent league form W1, D1, L4 is poor they lie just five points above the relegation zone. Brazilian frontman Joelinton improved the mood a little locally in the midweek FA Cup replay with Rochdale by scoring for the first time in 20 appearances, adding to his winner at Tottenham back in August. With Dwight Gayle and Andy Carroll seeing more game time in recent weeks there is added competition for places. The absence of Johnjo Shelvey (top scorer with five) and Alan Saint-Maximin has been a setback as both had the ability to drive forward and reduce pressure for periods on a hard working defence. The return to action of Shelvey and Jamal Lascelles is extremely welcome. Having scored only 11 goals in 11 home games, only Bournemouth with 10 have scored less, they have done well to pick up four wins and four draws. Much of this is down to a hardworking, stubborn back five where goalkeeper Martin Dubravka and Jetro Willems have impressed for Steve Bruce's side.

Chelsea's 2019/20 season has been a little up and down. After a difficult start they kicked into gear with Tammy Abraham (13 league goals) and Mason Mount the standout performers. However they have recently lost at home to West Ham, Bournemouth and Southampton. With so many young players in the squad a drop off was always expected, but while they struggled to break down sides at home their away form has largely stood up to the test with recent victories at Tottenham and Arsenal. Their record of W7, D1, L3 is joint second, behind Liverpool, is only matched by Leicester and Manchester City. The combinations of Jorginho, Mount, Willian and Abraham make Chelsea a dangerous opponent when they move the ball quickly. Full back Reece James is getting forward more often and his crossing is becoming as potent as that of Trent Alexander-Arnold. Callum Hudson-Odoi is showing more consistency as he gets more game time.

However the defence is inconsistent and they have yet to find the perfect central partnership with Antonio Rudiger, Kurt Zouma, Cesar Azpilicueta and Fikayo Tomori sharing time. Andreas Christensen has recently been given a chance against Nottingham Forest and Burnley where they managed to pick up two rare, but at times fortunate, clean sheets.

In last season's fixture Chelsea won 2-1 thanks to an 87th minute own goal by DeAndre Yedlin. It would not be surprising if this encounter was a similarly tight affair with Newcastle sitting deep, trying to frustrate the opposition and hoping to pounce on any opportunities that come their way.

Suggested bet : Chelsea to win and both teams to score (11/5 at bet365)

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