Date: Sunday 28th January 2018
Venue: Stamford Bridge
After going out of the League Cup midweek to Arsenal, today’s early kick-off sees us play host to Newcastle in the fourth round of the FA Cup but whilst most predictions I’ve seen seem to have us as firm favourites to go through, I’m less convinced. Of course, we’ve shown we’re capable of throwing in a decent performance here and there but those have become ever more sporadic. The size of the squad obviously doesn’t help in a season where Conte has more frequent fixtures to contend with than he did in his honeymoon season and the players look worryingly weary at times both in body and spirit. The fact that weariness is also reflected in our once manic manager, worn down by the usual press nonsense and whatever it is he’s up against behind closed doors, does nothing for the confidence of us looking on.
We’ve had a lot of success in the FA Cup over the years and its an important competition for us although whether or not the current crop of players will have the same sense of sentiment is doubtful. We’d also had a good record against Arsenal before this season and that appeared to mean very little to them in the second half Wednesday night. We can only hope there’s some pride left to play for amongst them.
Going into today’s game, Chelsea boss Antonio Conte says “I am the coach, and my task is to try to do the best for this club and try to improve my players for this club. As I have said before, and I am repeating every three days, I will be very happy to continue working with my players, and I will be very happy if there are some new players. My mind doesn’t change after only three days. The players are happy [with the packed fixture list] because they want to play, and they want to play every game. In this case it’s more difficult for the coach, because the players love to play and not have training sessions.”
Newcastle manager Rafael Benitez meanwhile, says “Every game is important, but obviously we know how massive it is to stay in the Premier League, because of all the money around and then you can improve your team if you have more money. It’s a win-win situation if you stay in the Premier League, so that is something we have to consider. But at the same time, if we can use the squad, we will try to do our best. We will use some players that were maybe not playing, and obviously some that were. I need to find this balance between players with match fitness and players who are not playing too much.”
For Chelsea, Thibaut Courtois (ankle) and striker Alvaro Morata (back) remain out and Willian (hamstring) is another absentee after coming off against Arsenal. Cesc Fabregas (hamstring) could return, whilst Drinkwater and Cahill are doubts.
For Newcastle, Aleksandar Mitrovic (back) and Jesus Gamez miss out and Florian Lejeune (foot) is a doubt. Kenedy is ineligible to play against us.
CHELSEA (Possible line-up): Caballero, Ampadu, Luiz, Azpilicueta, Zappacosta, Drinkwater, Bakayoko, Pedro, Barkley, Hazard, Batshuayi
NEWCASTLE (Possible line-up): Elliott, Yedlin, Lascelles, Clark, Dummett, Hayden, Shelvey, Diame, Ritchie, Murphy, Joselu
Chelsea 3-1 Newcastle (2nd December 2017)
CURRENT FORM (ALL)
~ Chelsea have beaten Newcastle in five of their last six FA Cup ties
~ The most recent FA Cup tie between the 2 sides ended 1-0 to Chelsea (2006).
~ Chelsea are unbeaten at home in their last 10 FA Cup games against Premier League opponents
~ Newcastle are looking to reach the FA Cup fifth round for the first time since 2006
~ Newcastle have gone out in each of their last four FA Cup fourth round ties.
~ Chelsea have reached the FA Cup fifth round in 17 of their last 19 seasons
101 great goals: Chelsea 2-1 Newcastle
Sky Sports: Chelsea 2-0 Newcastle
Sports Illustrated: Chelsea 2-0 Newcastle