Nearly two decades ago, in 2003, Roman Abramovich came in and upset the Premier League apple cart, almost immediately transforming Chelsea from a good team with aspirations to a great team with not just aspirations but intentions of grandeur — and most importantly, resources (financial, structural, coaching) to follow through on said intentions. He was the new money, and the establishment’s old money cried foul.
Fast forward to 2021, and Abramovich is practically the old money as one of the longest-tenured owners in the division, and far from the richest. He may have incomprehensible wealth, but not even he can compete with sovereign wealth.
That said, Newcastle face a far bigger challenge than Chelsea or even Manchester City ever did. Not only are they starting from a lower baseline — it’d be hilarious if they ended up getting relegated this season — they are facing a much higher overall level. Just about every Premier League team is among the world’s richest and can compete for great players; that’s no longer the purview of just the top few.
And thanks to the timing of the acquisition, Newcastle can’t do anything until January at the earliest. Until then, and until next season, they have a much more mundane task at hand: Premier League survival.
Date / Time: Saturday, October 30, 2021; 15.00 BST; 10am EDT; 7:30pm IST
Venue: St James’ Park, Newcastle upon Tyne, England
Referee: Paul Tierney (on pitch); David Coote (VAR)
Forecast: Rain, of course
On TV: none (UK); none (USA); Star Sports 3 (India); SuperSport Football (NGA); elsewhere
Streaming: none (UK); Peacock (USA); Hotstar (India); DStv Now (NGA)
Newcastle United team news: Steve Bruce was allowed to oversee his 1000th game in management, then got the expected heave-ho from the club, with Graeme Jones taking over as interim manager. His first game in charge was last weekend’s 1-1 draw against Crystal Palace. His second game might be his last, with the Magpies’ managerial search actively underway.
The point earned last weekend was only Newcastle’s fourth all season, from four draws, as they remains winless after nine games. Only Norwich City have a worse record, and a worse goals-against. But while Chelsea dispatched Norwich 7-0 last weekend, Newcastle away will be a lot tougher proposition, regardless of circumstances or statistics or even form.
Callum Wilson returned from injury a couple weeks ago, and has scored in both of his games since — in fact, he has 4 goals in 5 games and remains their clear danger-man alongside the often effervescent and irrepressible Allan Saint-Maximin. Jonjo Shelvey, who’s also missed much of the season through injury, will also be back available after serving a one-match suspension. Summer signing Joe Willock, who made such a great impression on loan last year, has yet to score, while Miguel Almirón, Joelinton, and Dwight Gayle are also all still looking for their first goals of the season — no time like a big game against Chelsea then!
Chelsea team news: If you need any more fuel for your growing sense of dread, we will be making the trip without Mateo Kovačić, who’s picked up a hamstring injury and will be out for the next few weeks. He joins forwards Romelu Lukaku, Timo Werner, and Christian Pulisic on the sidelines. Pulisic might be the only one of the four to be able to play before the next international break, but I wouldn’t necessarily bet on that given his previous injury record.
In better news, we do have N’Golo Kanté, César Azpilicueta, Andreas Christensen, and Rubne Loftus-Cheek available after they all missed the midweek League Cup win over Southampton that needed yet another penalty shootout.
Chelsea did put seven (7!) past Norwich last weekend, as mentioned above, so hopefully rotating back to that lineup (or a similar one) will also produce the goods at St James’ Park. Liverpool and Manchester City are both at home this weekend, playing Brighton and Crystal Palace, respectively, but as long as we keep picking up the three points as expected, we can not only stay in the early title-race, but stay on top.
Previously: We’ve won just twice at St James’ Park since 2011, but those two wins have come in our last three visits, including last season’s 2-0, with Tammy Abraham sealing the win in the second half.