Date: Saturday 3rd Dec, 2011.
Referee: Mike Dean.
Newcastle United will be looking to maintain their fine home form (undefeated in ten games) and increase the pressure on Chelsea’s beleaguered manager, André Villas-Boas in the 12.45 kick off at St James Park, Newcastle on Saturday.
NUFC report that the game is sold out so a capacity crowd will be able to watch an intriguing match up between the fourth and fifth placed teams both of whom have injured DM’s missing from their respective sides.
Cheick Tiote, who has been linked with a move to Chelsea in recent months, will definitely miss the game adding to concerns by some fans that he’s been left out deliberately in order to avoid further injury in the run up to January’s transfer window.
Worryingly, manager Alan Pardew said:
“I am not going to say he will be fit for next week. We must make sure he is right because he is a very important player to us.
“There is no complication. It is just a little niggle which we just can’t get over the line at the moment”
Presumably that little niggle is called Del Lias?
So Danny Guthrie is expected to fill in once again while Jonas Gutierrez will also be missing as he serves a one game suspension for his sending off at Old Trafford.
Arguably part of Chelsea’s current malaise is down to the continuing absence of their midfield maestro, Michael Essien. Without his presence Chelsea seem to lack drive and creativity in the centre of midfield. The young teenager Josh McEachran (seen by some as a natural successor to Essien), who made his senior debut against the Mags last season in the 3-4 League Cup defeat at Stamford Bridge hasn’t travelled due to an injury he sustained during Tuesday’s home defeat to Liverpool.
Before we discuss the teams and the formations for Saturdays game, it is with deep sadness we at .ORG have to mention that the Premier League have confirmed there will be a minute’s applause, prior to kick off, in memory of the late Gary Speed who proudly wore the black and white shirt for over six years, playing 284 competitive games for the club.
However the planned tribute by the club, a guest tenor was to have led the crowd in a rendition of the Hymn “Cwm Rhondda”, has now been postponed in order to allow Louise Speed and her family to attend the next home match and join in celebrating the life of her late husband.
Such was the mood going into these three tough games (Citeh, The other Mancs and now Chelski) most fans would have been happy with a point at home to Chelsea. Yet given the current poor form of the lacklustre Blues (knocked out of the Carling Cup in midweek and losing three out of their last five league games) many will feel this is an ideal time to take on the product of Roman’s roubles.
NUFC Provisional squad
Goal: Tim Krul, Rob Elliot.
Defence: Danny Simpson, Ryan Taylor, Davude Santon, Shane Ferguson, Fabricio Coloccini (C), Steven Taylor, James Perch.
Midfield: Yohan Cabaye, Dan Gosling, Danny Guthrie, Gabriel Obertan, Hatem Ben Arfa, Sammy Ameobi, Mehdi Abeid, Haris Vuckic, Alan Smith.
Forwards: Demba Ba, Leon Best, Shola Ameobi, Peter Lovenkrands.
Pardew believes he has a number of options to consider when replacing the suspended Gutierrez. He is apparently toying with several ideas as he looks to take on the side trying to take over NUFC’s fourth place spot.
The manager said:
“We’ve still got a strong team. Danny Guthrie’s been terrific, and we’ve got Sammy Ameobi, Dan Gosling, Haris Vuckic and Peter Lovenkrands, who can all do a job in the absence of Jonas”.
The Newcastle boss took time to pay tribute to the Argentine by saying:
“Jonas has been brilliant – he’s a big loss. He’s been in great form. It is a blow and no Cheick, that’ll be a blow as well”
Mystifyingly, Pardew also added:
“It’s better to get that news out than Chelsea finding out through the team-sheet.”
He went on to give some clues to the possible replacement by stating that whoever takes over on the left must quickly forge an understanding with Ryan Taylor, who has experienced somewhat mixed fortunes during the first part of this season. He said:
“He’s protected Ryan, and Ryan’s helped Jonas the other way. It’s a really good tandem effect.”
Pardew then admitted:
“I never assumed, after losing Enrique, that Jonas and Ryan would play as well as they have done because the link between Jose and Enrique was very good. It’s difficult to break a bond like that, but Ryan’s come in and matched what Jose did.”
So no place for Santon at left back judging by those comments, but possibly a role as left sided Wing Back? Other more obvious options would be to switch Obertan to the left and bring in young Dan Gosling on the right of midfield or maybe move HBA to the wide position and allow Vukcic to sit just behind Ba?
However I’m assuming that as Sammy Ameobi took the role of wide man while Obertan was unavailable, maybe Pardew will choose him to take on the role of support LB ? Whichever personnel he selects it’s a fair bet that we’ll line up in the now familiar 4-4-1-1 with HBA hopefully linking up with Ba a little more effectively ?
Meanwhile, Andre Villas-Boas has decided that enough is enough as far as Torres is concerned and will rest the Spaniard until he rediscovers some “form” which is somewhat of a mixed blessing for NUFC. Undoubtedly an in form Torres is one of the top ten strikers in Europe, however that well known expression involving the words “cows arse” and “banjo” could be applied to the Iberian right now. .
AVB went on to say:
“We’re going back to 4-3-3 at Newcastle and Didier (Drogba) is showing good signs of returning.”
“Fernando has shown in the past he has that ability and we’ll continue to pursue it. It must come with time and confidence but Fernando is facing tough competition.”
“We still believe in him and we will continue to pursue his individual form.”
“Our task as technical staff is to get the best out of the players. If we cannot do it, that’s when we fail and we have to improve.”
“We didn’t play well on Tuesday and we must take a lesson from that.”
From that we can assume Drogba will spearhead a front three along side Mata and Sturridge. AVB likes his wide attackers to come inside onto their stronger foot, with the right-sided Juan Mata playing down the left, and the left-sided Sturridge down the right.
The midfield will probably be anchored by former Barca trainee Romeu who has begun to show the kind of form that warrants having a stunning £20m buy back clause inserted into his contract from his former employers. Likely midfield partners could be Lampard, Ramires or Raul Meireles with Terry and Luiz in central defence.
As we all know NUFC’s major strength this season has been the outstanding defence which, if Raylor keeps his place will have remained unchanged in the League. Coincidentally that is one of Chelski’s weaknesses while they have played the high line that AVB seems to prefer.
However the Blues are a good passing side and have some very skilful and talented players who can inflict damage on unsuspecting opponents. Their main threats will come from out wide with both Sturridge and Mata capable of scoring from individual pieces of brilliance, so both Toon full backs will need support from their midfield colleagues.
If, as we assume, AVB will opt for a target man in Drogba, rather than a quick striker like Torres, we should be able to press higher up the pitch and push Cabaye further forward to help our attacking play. Later, if Torres does get a sub role, we could then resort to dropping deeper and hopefully by then we could be protecting a single goal lead which is something we do very well.
The key for NUFC, in an attacking sense, is to try to get at their defence as early, and as quickly, as possible because swift attacking breaks can trouble the slowing Terry (HBA please note) and the highly unpredictable Luiz.
Close fought but ultimately entertaining draw. 2-2.