At last, the international break is over, and we can get back to football (assuming we didn’t just create a massive COVID-19 outbreak by commingling all these various national football bubbles into an international one).
And what’s even more exciting about the return of proper football is that, if we recall, Chelsea were in fantastic form before the break, winning four in a row in all competitions by a combined 14-1 scoreline. In fact, Chelsea haven’t lost a match in regulation since late September, which remains our only non-penalty shootout defeat on the season. Having kicked our habit of draws and seemingly found a way to actually play defense and keep clean sheets while still managing to score at the other end, we can only hope that the two-week break didn’t completely disrupt that momentum and make us take several steps backwards.
As far as tests go, it doesn’t get much tougher than returning from break by having to travel to Newcastle for a lunchtime Saturday kick-off, so we’ll find out quickly where we stand at the start of this four-month-long run of uninterrupted fixtures.
Date / Time: Saturday, November 21, 2020, 12.30 GMT; 7:30am EST; 6pm IST
Venue: St James’ Park, Newcastle upon Tyne, England
Referee: Craig Pawson (on pitch); Simon Hooper (VAR)
Forecast: Cool, breezy, wet
On TV: BT Sport 1 (UK); none (USA); Star Sports Select HD1 (India); SuperSport Premier League (NGA); elsewhere
Streaming: BT Sport Live (UK); Peacock (USA); Hotstar (India); DStv Now (NGA) — Peacock is NBC’s new streaming service, which they continue to push annoyingly hard though Xfinity customers get it for free (still counts against your data). Others have to pay $5/month or $50/year ($10 & $100 for the premium ad-free version). Comcast is the parent company of NBC and an investor in Vox/SB Nation. Here’s our affiliate link if you want to make our corporate overlords happy.
Newcastle United team news: Newcastle finished 13th last season, which doesn’t sound too impressive, but was just about on par with their best seasons of the past decade and a half (since 2006, Newcastle have finished 10th or lower in all but one of their seasons). They’re on track to doing that yet again, sitting 13th currently as well.
After the failure of the latest takeover attempt, greatly disliked current owner Mike Ashley did spend some money on the squad in the transfer window, snapping up good players from relegated teams in striker Callum Wilson and winger Ryan Fraser (both Bournemouth) and left back Jamal Lewis (Norwich). Midfielder Jeff Hendrick also joined on a free transfer from Burnley. (Our old pal Christian Atsu is still around as well, though not playing much.)
Wilson especially has had a great start to life at the club, scoring 6 times in his first 8 games, though he’s been nursing a thigh injury lately that makes him a game-time decision for tomorrow. Joining Wilson on the injury watch list are Ryan Fraser, Matt Ritchie, Jonjo Shelvey, and Miguel Almirón. Others, like Dwight Gayle, Paul Dummett, and goalkeeper Martin Dúbravka are definitely out.
View from the enemy: Coming Home Newcastle
Chelsea team news: Our injury list is half as long as Newcastle’s, but with Christian Pulisic, Thiago Silva, and Kai Havertz on it, it’s just as impactful, if not even more so.
Both Pulisic and Havertz trained to some extent, but the former’s hamstring remains problematic and the latter did much of it by himself on the side to focus on fitness after a two-week mandated quarantine and period of inactivity due to COVID-19 (he actually had mild symptoms). Thiago Silva meanwhile didn’t return from international duty until late yesterday, and will thus likely miss the first game post-break just as he did after the previous international break.
On the plus side, Ben Chilwell should be good to go after a back spasm suffered during the England match last weekend.
Previously: This fixture last year featured a 94th-minute winner for the home side. In fact, we’ve won just once at St James’ Park since 2012-13, and even that was thanks to a DeAndre Yedlin own goal. Ugh.