Chelsea’s pattern of inconsistency enters its third month today as the Blues host The Interim One’s Newcastle United.
Since November 11, Chelsea have won 8, drawn 3, and lost 4, but have done so without going on any major winning or winless streaks. It reads almost like a random sequence — DLWWLWDWWLWWDWL, or, as this excellent video from Numberphile explains, at least someone’s idea of a random sequence that’s not really all that random. It’s just inconsistent.
Chelsea’s problem has been largely in front of the opposition goal. In the early part of the season, we all worried about (and often got lucky in) defensive transition. Those issues have taken a backseat to goalscoring — Chelsea in fact have the second best defensive record in the league. But in the 15 games since November 11, Chelsea have scored more than 2 goals just once (4-0 vs. PAOK) and have been shut out 4 times, including in 3 of the last 6 games in all competitions. Compare the 20 goals scored in those 15 games with the 38 (38!) in the preceding 17, and the magnitude of the problem becomes pretty clear.
So far, 2019 hasn’t exactly brought a fresh start in that regard, with just two goals scored in three games, both against Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup. No time like the present to get things going once again, before it’s too late.
Date / Time: Saturday, January 12, 2019, 17:30 GMT; 12:30pm EST; 11pm IST
Venue: Stamford Bridge, SW6
Referee: Chris Kavanagh — this will be just the third Chelsea match for Kavanagh, who took charge of our first league match this season, a 3-0 win over Huddersfield, as well as last season’s 5-1 win over Nottingham Forest in the League Cup.
Forecast: Cloudy, breezy, but still fairly mild. Chance of rain (which was strangely missing for most of the 10 days I was there just now) late on.
On TV: BT Sport 1 (UK); NBC, Universo (USA); Star Sports Select HD1 (India); elsewhere
Streaming online: BT Sport Live (UK); NBC Sports Live, Telemundo Deportes En Vivo (USA); Hotstar (India); Fubo TV (affiliate link — USA only)
Chelsea team news: Having been defeated by technology on midweek, Chelsea will hope to get the job done the old fashioned way today. The improving health of the recently decimated attacking group should be helpful in that regard, with both Pedro and Olivier Giroud available once again. Alvaro Morata remains doubtful (for various reasons) while Ruben Loftus-Cheek is out for at least a few more weeks with his latest back injury.
Chelsea’s busy schedule takes a breather after this one, with a full week before next weekend’s big test at Arsenal, which will then immediately be followed by the second leg of the Carabao Cup semifinal against Spurs. Some rotation could thus be expected today, but with the top four race tight as ever (Manchester United are closing fast in sixth, now just six points behind), Sarri’s unlikely to take too many risks.
Newcastle United team news: Times are grim up north, but Rafa Benítez is managing to keep the Magpies above water, for now. It’s been a strange season even by their standards, with all four of their wins coming in an seven-game stretch starting in November. Their only other win since May has been the 3-0 against Chelsea in Conte’s last league match. There may be more draws than losses lately, but it’s a shocking state for what remains one of England’s biggest clubs.
Chelsea loanee Kenedy, whose own personal success has unfortunately mirrored the team’s this season is ineligible, while both Ki Sung-Yeung and Yoshinori Muto are away at the Asian Cup. Jonjo Shelvey is set to miss out once again (quad strain), as is Paul Dummett with a hamstring. Mo Diamé and Federico Fernández could feature again after suffering from hip injuries.
Newcastle are one of six teams firmly in relegation danger at the moment and any points won in any way will be of great help to them. They’re not expected to get anything out of this fixture, which is always an opportunity for a big shock. Chelsea will have to concentrate and take care of business, hopefully by more than just the odd goal.
View from the enemy: Coming Home Newcastle
Previously: Chelsea won the first meeting this season by that odd goal, way back on Matchday 3, thanks to a late winner from Marcos Alonso (technically given as an own goal by DeAndre Yedlin).