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PL Preview: Newcastle v. Chelsea

On my way to Tyneside - with a girl, who is a friend.
Yeah, that's right.

The what: Premier League, Round 15 – Newcastle v. Chelsea
The where: St. James' Park (52,387)
The when: November 28, 1:30pm local time (8:30am EST)
The how: Fox Soccer Plus (DirecTV 621, Dish Network 149)
The why: Because, despite a win in midweek, we're still in the muck.  Arnesen has resigned, effective at the end of the season, removing another of King Carlo's close affiliates. Our manager, with his job being called into question continually by the media, is beginning to cut an island-esque figure. A performance of quality is required to quell the rumor mill, and solidify Ancelotti's place in the dugout. A loss, and well we're looking at a full-blown crisis.

The referee: Andre Marriner
The stat: Newcastle have scored a total of one goal in their last six Premier League meetings with Chelsea

Anyone making the trip up the A1 to Newcastle may want to hold off until the very last minute. This one might not get played. In fact, I'd wager it will not.

A storm's been a-brewin' throughout the UK over the past week, and promises to continue wreaking white, fluffy havoc on the Queen's land for the foreseeable future. Some parts of England have received as much as 14 inches of snow. Tyneside is right in the thick of it all, with even more snowfall expected over the next week.

NUFC has  released a statement in response to the stormage: "Staff at Newcastle United are doing everything they can today to ensure that despite the heavy snowfall, tomorrow's Barclay's Premier League game with Chelsea can go ahead as scheduled.  Aside from the task of making the pitch area playable, health and safety concerns are being addressed too. The club is working closely with Newcastle City Council and extra staff have been brought in to help make public areas in and around the ground safe and accessible."

So, keep your hopes up. But don't hold your breath.

Snake Eyes.

Toon —
12 (18 points)
League Form: WWWLDL
Team: Krul, Soderberg, Simpson, Perch, Ferguson, Enrique, S. Taylor, Campbell, Kadar, Tiote, Smith, Routledge, Gutierrez, Guthrie, Vuckic, Tavernier, Donaldson, Nolan, Carroll, Ameobi, Lovenkrands, Ranger, Xisco
Doubtful: Ameobi (hamstring)
Injured: Harper (shoulder), Gosling (knee), Best (ankle), R Taylor (ankle), Ben Arfa (broken leg)
Suspended: Barton (3 of 3), Coloccini (1 of 3), Williamson (1 of 3)
Leading scorer: Carroll 8
Quote: "You expect a club like Chelsea to win football matches, and I didn't see too much wrong with the Birmingham performance. On another day, they'd have won quite comfortably. With the quality in their side, they're capable of going into every game and winning." -Chris Hughton

Newcastle have not defeated Chelsea at St. James' in four-plus years (May 2006), though that statistic is somewhat misleading. Remember, we've already lost to this lot, in September.

Our League Cup loss to them, in a way, was the precursor for the predicament in which we currently find ourselves. Revenge is a must. And, with Count Berbatov leading a trounce of Blackburn for United on Saturday, a convincing piece of revenge would be ideal. We're off the top of the league for the first time this season after all. That simply won't do.

What will do is the very thought of The Mighty One against a second-choice central defensive pairing. Fabricio Coloccini and Mike Williamson will each be serving the first of their three-match bans. Great news. Evening better considering both attempted to take lumps out of poor Johan Elmander. More promising, the inclusion of Sol Campbell. Drogba to run wild?

1 (28 points)
League Form: WWLWLL
Team: Cech, Turnbull, Ivanovic, Terry, Alex, Bruma, Bosingwa, Ferreira, Cole, Van Aanholt, Mikel, Ramires, McEachran, Zhirkov, Malouda, Kalou, Kakuta, Drogba, Anelka, Sturridge, Borini
Doubtful: Zhirkov (calf)
Injured: Terry (back), Lampard (groin), Benayoun (achilles)
Suspended: Essien (3 of 3)
Leading scorer: Malouda 7
Quote: "We had a meeting. I wanted the players to give their opinion about the moment. It was a clear meeting, they spoke with objective thoughts and I was happy because I was happy with their opinion. Obviously we spoke about football, the situation that happened on the pitch, the problems that we find. Just this, and their opinion, I think was very good, very clear, and everyone agreed." -King Carlo

Chelsea have not lost three consecutive league matches since October 1999. I would very much like it if that statistic remained intact.

Our injury list remains thorough, with England's Brave John Terry, Sir Frank Lampard, Yuri Zhirkov and Yossi Benayoun still wondering in the wilderness. Alex will again play, despite requiring knee surgery. Warrior. Jose Bosingwa is fit enough to start, so we should - at least in theory - be able to get at Newcastle down either flank. Ashley Cole has in recent weeks gone missing so a return to the form I so frequently preach on this very site - that is world's best form - would be greated with much rejoicing. Are you listening, Ashley?

Drogba, as mentioned in the Zilina MotM post, is trying. Trying really hard. It's just not coming off for him at the moment. It will. Tomorrow may be the day. Salomon Kalou continues to defy all logic and start for this club. Even with Danny Sturridge putting in what I thought was a very good shift in midweek. Now that I've said this, Kalou to bag a pair. Watch this space.

Carlo named his XI in the pre-match presser so nothing to debate there. It's pretty much what you would expect at the moment. It's good enough to beat pretty much anybody in the division. I expect it to handle Newcastle on Sunday - if the game is in fact played. KTBFFH

Starting XI

Sidenote: I feel like I need to make an excuse for the lack of posting this week. This should do. Two migraines, an ear infection, a wedding, work on Thanksgiving - that's an abbreviated look at the past six days in the life of The Chelsea Offside. Take that as you will. I found it to suck, personally. 

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