It's now or never for Chelsea and Jose Mourinho to finally break the Newcastle hoodoo. Three straight the Blues have lost away to Newcastle; Mourinho's never won in the league at St. James' Park (2 draws, 3 losses).
But as bad as Chelsea's start to the season has been, Newcastle's has been even worse. The Magpies have just one win in all competitions this season -- and that against League Two Northampton Town in the League Cup -- and have just one win (and three draws) in their last 17 (!) Premier League matches stretching back to last season. Just four wins in total in all of 2015. No more Pardew either! If we can't win now...
To ensure we finally do the unthinkable and return from the scary, dreary, white walker-y north with all three points, Mourinho will no doubt rotate back to the first-choice eleven. What that first choice eleven might be, however, is not 100 percent clear (it's about 80 percent clear). This is probably a good thing; having to make tough choices between players.
Some things are known. Goalkeeper, both full backs (yes, both), both central midfielders should be the usual suspects. Many key players got the whole day off against Walsall, including Hazard, Matic, Fabregas, and Azpilicueta -- they should all be ready and raring to go. Oscar, if fit, is the glue that holds it all together, while presumably it'll be Pedro on the right wing after his warm-up cameo midweek. That leaves two major decisions for Mourinho: center forward and center back.
At striker, with Costa sitting, we have to choose between Loic Remy and Radamel Falcao. Both started on Wednesday, Falcao in the middle and Remy out wide right, but it was the latter who was able to get on the scoresheet, while the former had to make do with a few positive words from the manager after the game. Then again, it is Falcao who needs the reinforcement; Remy doesn't need extra love to keep scoring goals. Which is just what he'll do on his return to St. James', mark it down (don't mark it down).
At center back, the question is what to do with John Terry. The Chelsea captain also received a few positive post-match words on Wednesday, but he was also in need of those -- well, not he personally, but just to placate the hungry media who were already running stories about rifts and unhappiness with regards to the Chelsea legend. That said, I think Mourinho goes back to the pairing that has emerged as capable, mobile, and solid as we've slowly righted the ship: Cahill and Zouma.
With that in mind, our predicted lineup for tomorrow's visit to Newcastle is as follows:
Begovic | Azpilicueta, Cahill, Zouma, Ivanovic | Matic, Fabregas | Hazard, Oscar, Pedro | Remy
In the community voting, the lineup preferred by all y'all is almost the same, save for Baba Rahman starting at full back instead of Ivanovic. I'd be very surprised if that were the case tomorrow, especially considering that Jose spoke just a few days ago about how he doesn't consider Baba ready for the Premier League just yet.
Begovic | Baba, Cahill, Zouma, Azpilicueta | Matic, Fabregas | Hazard, Oscar, Pedro | Remy
I guess the question now becomes, does Mourinho go with what everyone expects and suspects? Joke will be on us when he deploys Zouma as a left back, puts Azpilicueta as a holding midfielder and plays Fabregas as a false nine. To be clear, that's just a joke ... I hope.