Chelsea will be looking to keep their superb run of domestic form going as they welcome former boss Rafa Benitez and his Newcastle United side to Stamford Bridge. The Blues have won five and drawn one of their last six Premier League fixtures and need to keep the run going to have any chance of catching Manchester City, who remain 11 points clear at the top of the tree.
Conte reverted to his 3-4-3 formation against a resolute Swansea side on Wednesday and he will be looking to his creative players to influence the game once again. Whilst the performance against the Swans was a little fragmented at times, the team seemingly benefitted from having increased options in forward areas.
Thibaut Courtois was largely a spectator against Swansea and it could be a similar role for the Belgian on Saturday.
Victor Moses came off the bench against in midweek as he stepped up his rehabilitation after injury but Davide Zappacosta has been in great form for the Blues so should keep his place, flanked by the consistent Marcos Alonso.
David Luiz was omitted once more against Swansea and it appears as if the Brazilian may have to earn his place back in Antonio Conte’s side with Andreas Christensen in such good form.
Antonio Rudiger’s goal was decisive against Swansea and it capped an impressive performance from the German. Cesar Azpilicueta was granted a rest last time out, meaning the Spaniard could come back in here and Gary Cahill could be the man putting his feet up on Saturday.
Cesc Fabregas’ creative influence was called upon against Swansea and the Spaniard could adopt a similar role against the Toon. Things don’t seem to tick over so well without N’Golo Kante in midfield and the Frenchman should be preferred to Tiemoue Bakayoko and Danny Drinkwater.
Willian has provided width and end product in recent weeks and the Brazilian continues to prove Conte wrong and is well worthy of his place in the starting XI.
Pedro replaced Eden Hazard against Swansea and the Belgian’s presence was missed – particularly in linking up with Alvaro Morata – who continues to impress in his all-encompassing forward role, despite not getting the goal return as yet.
Predicted Starting XI
Newcastle showed great resolve last time out to come back from 2-0 down to clinch a point at West Bromwich Albion and in doing so, halted a run of four straight Premier League defeats. Rafa Benitez will make no bones about setting up defensively and Chelsea will need to be patient to break them down; the Blues definitely have the personnel to do so.
With the festive period looming, matches can become a real slog and results become more important than performances. Newcastle will look to frustrate the Blues for long period but with the quality at their disposal, Chelsea should have more than enough to win this one.
Chelsea 2 – 0 Newcastle United