Saturday 10 January 3pm
John Carver hasn’t stated that he will put his strongest team out today but I think we can all be pretty confident that this will be the case, as neither Mike Ashley or John Carver will fancy a real hiding in the capital.
The odds do look a ‘little’ stacked against United, if you look at any criteria other than the head to head record over the last few years.
Four Newcastle wins in six matches is a remarkable/bizarre statistic, which consists of three wins at St. James’ Park and that mad night at Stamford Bridge when Papiss Cisse scored one class goal and the second which was simply outrageous.
No Cisse today due to both suspension and African Cup of Nations duty, so to stand any chance of coming away with anything, United will need to score a goal, or more realistically, goals.
Nine wins in nine home Premier league matches with 22 scored and only 3 conceded tells you all you need to know about the challenge ahead this afternoon. While Chelsea’s defence had a real off day in their last league match at White Hart Lane, they still managed three at the other end in that excellent 5-3 match.
United have to show a threat and while reality tells you defence will take up most of the match, it is vital they play at least one of Riviere or Cabella to support Ayoze Perez and get the likes of Moussa Sissoko up alongside them.
Our poll of fans saw four full-backs chosen in Janmaat, Santon, Dummett and Haidara, as well as Fabricio Coloccini. It would appear a no-brainer that Dummett will play alongside the captain but hopefully not a back three/four that would also include Mike Williamson.
With such limited choices in midfield and attack there may be a chance that Santon will be utilised in midfield as he has done a couple of times but I think he may well start back in the left-back position, with Haidara not really grabbing his chance when offered in recent times.
Anita was shocking (as well as many others) at Leicester but I can see him staying in the team to pack the midfield, again with options limited.
Gouffran was also ‘rested’ for that FA Cup match and again, sadly I expect him to come back in.
Goals though do change games and as Spurs showed, if you can get at the blues’ defence then you can get some joy.
A massive relief of course to have Tim Krul expected to be back in goal, no blame attached to Jak Alnwick because he did his best but in reality he’s had a nightmare time in goal, though ironically possibly his best match was last weekend at the King Power stadium.
Newcastle have to show the ambition necessary to give them a chance of nicking that first goal and then who knows how that changes the dynamic of the game, if Chelsea get that opening goal then things could get very messy.
Of the eleven who started that December win over Chelsea, only Rob Elliot, Steven Taylor, Sammy Ameobi and Cheick Tiote look to be unavailable today, none of whom have been key players this season. With Tim Krul back it is a massive bonus and no reason why United can’t make a better showing today than might be expected by most people.
With Chelsea and Manchester City tied on both points and goal difference, don’t expect any mercy if we go a couple behind!
Predicted starting 11;
See all the Leicester v Newcastle betting HERE