Hi gang, sorry it's been so long since the last post. Flying to England is fairly inconvenient as far as writing is concerned. (Did you know that Newark doesn't have wireless internet access? Mental.) Anyway, I'm currently at Stamford Bridge and will be watching this match in person, which is probably the only reason I'm paying it any attention at all - Manchester United have won the league and Chelsea's Champions League place is all wrapped up. Newcastle also have nothing to play for, making this game... well, pretty thoroughly boring.
What can we expect to see? I think everyone's hoping for sweeping changes in the Chelsea lineup, but we probably won't see too much going on. It's hard to imagine Josh McEachran, for example, getting a start - Carlo Ancelotti will be wanting to give his veterans a runout in the new kits rather than commit a team of kids to the field. What he might do, however, is pair the likes of Yossi Benayoun and Fernando Torres together. It's a combination that many have been asking for and one which needs some running out, so I could see Benayoun starting over Frank Lampard.
As for the rest, there's no reason for Didier Drogba not to play around on the right flank, but we may see Yuri Zhirkov be given a final Chelsea appearance before his expected departure in the summer. In the midfield, Michael Essien could probably do with a rest but both John Obi Mikel and Ramires are fresh, while the back line could well see Branislav Ivanovic (who has had a pair of atrocious games) replaced by Paulo Ferreira. I would expect Alex to start over David Luiz as well thanks to Sideshow Jesus' role int he first goal against Manchester United combined with the 'injury' excuse Ancelotti threw out after that match.
As far as Newcastle are concerned, though, I have absolutely no idea what kind of lineup they're likely to deploy. I suppose getting a result at Stamford Bridge would be reason enough to put out a fairly strong side, but it's not as though I'm a Newcastle prospect maven and really don't know who they might want to slot in. So guessing at that is probably a bad idea.
Here's my expected Chelsea lineup, then:
Chelsea (4-3-3): Petr Cech; Ashley Cole, John Terry, Alex, Paulo Ferreira; John Obi Mikel, Yossi Benayoun, Ramires; Yuri Zhirkov, Fernando Torres, Didier Drogba.
I'm not even going to bother to pick the score without knowing the actual lineups though. What do you all think?