Premier League 18/19: Newcastle United vs Chelsea – Lineups, Preview and Prediction
Newcastle United go in search of their first win of the season when Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea side visit St. James’ Park on Sunday.
16:00 BST, Sunday 26th August, St. James’ Park, Sky Sports Main Event
Rafael Benitez’s Newcastle United are still looking for their first win of the season after picking up one point from their opening two fixtures, drawing at Cardiff City last time out.
There is no such false start for Chelsea who head to Tyneside with their 100% record still intact.
The Blues have put a poor pre-season behind them by winning their opening two matches, comfortably beating Huddersfield Town on the opening day before edging past Arsenal last weekend.
Newcastle brushed aside Chelsea the last time these two sides met, putting three unanswered goals past them on the final day of last season.
Last Time Out
Cardiff City 0-0 Newcastle United
Benitez’s side secured their first point of the season when they played out a 0-0 stalemate with Neil Warnock’s Cardiff City in South Wales.
The game began at an intense, high pace with full-blooded challenges going in from both sides. There were chances at both ends in the opening frame though neither side could break the deadlock.
The home side came out the brighter after the break, and could have gone ahead through Kenneth Zohore whose headed chances couldn’t find the net.
Isaac Hayden was dismissed for the visitors after hacking down Josh Murphy though Cardiff will argue their opponents should have been down to nine men after winger Kenedy kicked out at Victor Camarasa.
The Brazilian then had a chance to win all three points from the spot deep into injury time though Neil Etheridge comfortably saved his weak effort.
Chelsea 3-2 Arsenal
Sarri’s side have quickly brushed off a poor summer and sit on six points after two straight wins.
The Blues picked up where they left off in West Yorkshire on the opening day and were ahead inside ten minutes when Pedro got on the end of a Marcos Alonso cross.
Chelsea were soon two goals to the good when forward Alvaro Morata ended his dry spell, finishing smartly after twenty minutes of play.
Arsenal grew into the game soon after, and could have been level within minutes but for wasteful finishing from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
The Armenian, though, was on target ten minutes before the break when his driven effort found its way past Kepa in the home sides’ net. The Gunners were on terms just before the break when Alex Iwobi stole a yard in the Chelsea penalty area to tap home.
Alonso continued his bright start when he won all three points for his side with ten minutes to play, slotting home a delivery from substitute Eden Hazard.
Newcastle United Lineup
Benitez will be without Kenedy as he is ineligible to play against his parent club, so Jacob Murphy could deputise.
DeAndre Yedlin will be fit enough to replace Javier Manquillo at right back while Salomon Rondon will hope for a recall after being left out in Cardiff.
Eden Hazard will hope to make his first stat after the season after a later return from the World Cup over the summer; his return could see either Pedro or Willian drop out.
Ross Barkley could continue in midfield alongside N’Golo Kante while Jorginho will continue in the holding role.
Key Battle: Matt Ritchie vs Marcos Alonso
Sarri’s arrival and change in system and formation brought an initial concern to Chelsea fans; how that would impact the effectiveness of Alonso and Cesar Azpilicueta.
The switch from the Antonio Conte-favoured 3-4-3 to the new 4-3-3, though, doesn’t appear – so far – to be at a detriment to the Spaniards. Alonso has picked up where he left off last season and already has a goal and two assists at the start of this campaign.
Alonso’s desire to get forward and join attacks is an extra string to Chelsea’s bow, and should Eden Hazard return to the fold, the Blues’ left wing will carry lots of threat.
DeAndre Yedlin should return at right back, but could find himself overloaded when Chelsea come forward. Benitez will task Ritchie with tracking back often and marshalling Alonso when the Blues have possession.
Alonso’s desire to attack, though, often leaves gaps on Chelsea’s left back should they lose the ball. Ritchie’s ability to deliver and create chances from the right wing is often called upon and the Scot will look to exploit any space Alonso leaves.
Can Newcastle threaten Chelsea?
While Chelsea appear to have found an extra gear when going forward, their defensive frailties – as highlighted by Arsenal at Stamford Bridge – are there to be exposed.
The Blues conceded twice in a matter of minutes, but more clinical finishing from the Gunners could have made that stat much worse.
Newcastle and Benitez will know that Chelsea’s defence isn’t unbreachable. The partnership of Antonio Rudiger and David Luiz is yet to settle and the likes of Salomon Rondon and Ayoze Perez will look to take advantage of an uncertain backline.
Benitez’s side will need to be careful in possession, ensuring the ball isn’t given away cheaply in dangerous areas.
Are the Blues staking an early claim?
Sarri and Chelsea fans will be happy with a maximum return though the Italian isn’t convinced his side are ready to mount a challenge.
The Blues looked comfortable in their dispatching of Huddersfield on the opening weekend while Sarri still has the likes of Hazard and Olivier Giroud to reach optimal fitness levels.
Alvaro Morata’s goal against the Gunners will give him a much-needed confidence boost going into a campaign that may well be labelled as a ‘make-or-break’ one for him.
Sarri has rejuvenated forgotten parts of this Chelsea side, with the likes of Luiz and Pedro returning to the starting XI and changing N’Golo Kante’s role in midfield.
The early signs are good for the Blues, but can they rub shoulders with the Liverpool’s and Manchester City’s of the division…?
Prediction: Newcastle United 1-2 Chelsea
Newcastle are a different side at St. James’ and Chelsea will find it hard to break down a determined team. The longer the game stays goalless, the better the home sides’ chances though the superior attacking edge of Sarri’s side will shine through.
Chelsea are liable to switch off defensively, though, and Benitez’s side will get chances. 1-2.
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