Venue: Stamford Bridge
Date: Wednesday, 2 May
Kick-off: 19.45 BST
I don’t know about anyone else but I was really sad to see the back of April as far as football is concerned. Roberto Di Matteo has really turned things around with some major battles on the pitch ending not just with us beating Barcelona to the Champions League final, but following that with a completely convincing 6-1 drubbing of QPR at the weekend. Not a hint of any European hangovers and a Fernando Torres hattrick thrown in for good measure has left us all pretty giddy.
Now though, a new month begins and the final few weeks of the season bring both the FA Cup and Champions League final – but before all that, it’s Newcastle in the Premier League tonight and whatever may or may not happen in the the coming weeks, we still have to give it everything we’ve got to finish in the top 4.
No matter what’s gone on over the past month or so, Roberto Di Matteo always takes each game as it comes and as ever respectful of the opposition, goes into tonight’s game saying “Every game is a must-win. We have to try our best, they have been in good form, on a very impressive run and it will be a tough game. They have a very good squad, quality individuals, good goalscorers, so I’m not very surprised, they’ve done very well this season. Papa Cisse is a very good player, he’s had a big impact, both at Newcastle and in the Premier League. He’s not the only one, though – they have Ben Arfa, Demba Ba, Cabaye, Tiote, a very strong team. We all have an equal chance, the same amount of games to play, it will be difficult because at the end of season you play against teams who are fighting against relegation, so it’s tough.”
Newcastle’s Alan Pardew meanwhile insists that in spite of a heavy defeat in their last game, his players are ready to do battle again, saying “I’d have liked to have gone into this Chelsea game with a different feeling. But I know, having looked in the players’ eyes, there’s a determination to put it right. Hopefully, we’ll take that on to the park, but even at our very best we could struggle to win at Chelsea. But we’ve got to believe we’ll get a break in the game, and that we’ll be at our very best. I think you’ve got to put it in perspective – we’re vying with Chelsea and Spurs with three games to go. When you look at the last seven games, and we’ve won six and lost one, it doesn’t sound so bad.”
David Luiz and Gary Cahill (both hamstring) remain out, although Branislav Ivanovic returns from suspension.
For Newcastle, Sammy Ameobi (knee) and Steven Taylor (Achilles) are out, Gabriel Obertan (ankle) and Sylvain Marveaux (groin) travel after returning to training and Danny Simpson (ankle) is expected to be fit.
CHELSEA (from): Cech, Ivanovic, Bosingwa, Terry, Cole, Bertrand, Mikel, Essien, Meireles, Lampard, Ramires, Mata, Malouda, Drogba, Torres, Sturridge, Kalou, Turnbull.
NEWCASTLE (from): Krul, Elliot, Harper, Simpson, Santon, R. Taylor, Ferguson, Tavernier, Perch, Coloccini, Williamson, Tiote, Cabaye, Guthrie, Ben Arfa, Gutierrez, Obertan, Marveaux, Abeid, Gosling, Vuckic, Ba, Cisse, Shola Ameobi, Best.
Newcastle 0-3 Chelsea (3rd December 2011)
The good news is, Newcastle haven’t beaten us in the league in their last 9 attempts and haven’t won in their last 18 trips to Stamford Bridge in the league either. But whilst the Geordies might be coming into tonight’s game off the back of a 4-0 defeat to Wigan, that was after a run of six wins on the trot, so we’d do well not to read too much into that. They’re a point above us and clearly fancy themselves to take the final Champions League spot and whilst we’re also on a run of 6 games unbeaten in the league, the worry is that our players might believe our route back into Europe next year is via the final itself. Tonight’s result could indicate whether that’s the case or not……….