While grounds up and down the Premier League are beginning to heat up with the type of nervous-excitement that accompanies the conclusion of any season, Stamford Bridge will be the scene for a more placid resolution.
The League campaign has been a mundane trail of disappointment, punctuated with a number of miss-haps, embarrassments and all round cock-ups.
Where most clubs have a clear target for the duration of the season,
Chelsea are stuck in a footballing purgatory. Relegation is now something of an afterthought and the chances of gaining a European spot are slim at best.
For the rest of the year it will be a case of going through the motions and trying to keep the squad fresh and well prepared for the dual challenges of an FA Cup tie against Manchester City and a Champions League, two-legged, affair with French champions PSG.
The same, however, cannot be said of Saturday’s opponents Newcastle United. Despite a huge investment into the playing staff, the Magpies are still languishing just a point above the relegation zone.
In an effort to beat the drop, owner Mike Ashley signed off on the acquisitions of Andros Townsend (£12million), Jonjo Shelvey (£12million), Henri Saivet (£4.5million) and Seydou Doumbia on loan. Huge fees for players to justify.
Andros Townsend is a player who has always irked me. He is like the Coupon-King version of Bayern Munich’s Arjen Robben. Both are so blatant in their desire to cut in onto their favoured left foot and unleash a strike at goal, but whereas attempting to contain Robben is like trying to catch smoke, Townsend is more like tying your shoelaces – it is a little tricky to begin with but once you get the hang of it, it becomes fairly straightforward.
His manager Steve McClaren takes a different view saying: “Townsend will get better and better, the fitter he gets. When he picks up the ball he’s so dangerous…” after last week’s 1-0 victory over West Brom. McClaren will be hoping to build some momentum with a win in Stamford Bridge, something Newcastle have only managed once in the last twenty-one attempts.
Chelsea will be without new signing Alexandre Pato and centre-back Kurt Zouma who sustained a serious knee injury in last week’s draw against Manchester United. The Blues can dispatch striker Diego Costa, who after suffering a broken nose on Thursday, has been declared fit to play, presumably wearing one of those amusing face-guards.
Newcastle will have to do without full-backs Massaido Haidara and Paul Dummett, but will be able to call upon the services of Jack Colback and Jamaal Lascelles. McClaren may also wish to deploy striker Emmanuel Riviere, but with the accuracy of a Stormtrooper, it is likely that he will keep his faith in Aleksandar Mitrovic.
With both Aston Villa and arch rivals Sunderland look increasingly impressive, it is imperative that Newcastle come away from Stamford Bridge with something to show for their efforts.
Chelsea (from): Amelia, Begovic, Blackman, Courtois, Azpilicueta, Cahill, Ivanovic, Miazga, Rahman, Terry, Fabregas, Hazard, Loftus-Cheek, Matic, Mikel, Oscar, Traore, Willian, Costa, Kenedy, Pato, Pedro, Remy.