Alan Pardew welcomes back Demba Ba as Chelsea travel to St James’ Park.
Chelsea defender Cesar Azpilicueta admits his team must embark a long winning streak if they are to restore the fear factor opponents used to experience when facing the Blues.
Azpilicueta and his team-mates travel to face Newcastle on Saturday after a frustrating 2-2 draw at struggling Reading in midweek when they conceded two late goals after appearing to be on course for victory.
That disappointment came on the back of the FA Cup fourth round draw with third tier minnows Brentford and the League Cup semi-final exit at the hands of Swansea.
Chelsea interim manager Rafael Benitez insists his side, currently third in the Premier League but only five points clear of fifth placed Everton, have been playing well without getting the rewards they deserve.
But Azpilicueta acknowledges that the longer the current run continues, the harder it will be for the Blues to intimidate opponents.
“Teams get scared when you win games in a row. Against Reading we played well and had a lot of chances. We felt that they were worried about our game but it’s true that when you win you get more respect,” Azpilicueta said.
Azpilicueta also conceded the recent poor run of results has had an effect on the team’s confidence and warned they must shake off the effects of the Reading game quickly ahead of the St James’ Park clash.
“We have a lot of players with experience. They’ve played a lot of important games. We’ve had this situation a lot of times,” he said.
“It’s also a little bit of confidence. When the team is better it’s easier to have the mind clear and to manage those situations. Now we have to recover well because we have an important game before the international break.”
Chelsea will head to the north east after a double boost with Eden Hazard learning the three-match ban imposed for kicking a ball-boy at Swansea will not be extended and Juan Mata recovering from the ankle injury that forced him off against Reading.
Meanwhile, Newcastle staged a special French day at their training ground this week in a bid to help their growing Gallic contingent settle in.
Five of Newcastle’s January transfer window signings came from France, bringing to 10 the number of players from across the English Channel available to manager Alan Pardew.
Owner Mike Ashley popped in to sample the French cuisine on offer in the tricolor-clad canteen, although the new arrivals didn’t have it all their own way, succumbing to a heavy defeat in a France versus ‘rest of the world’ training match.
Newcastle eased their relegation fears with a first away win for eight months at Aston Villa in midweek, and now they will look to end a six-and-a-half-year wait for a home victory over Chelsea.
Pardew revealed: “France versus rest of the world was interesting, but the French lads got a bit of ‘Les Miserables’. They got murdered.
“To be fair, they looked a little bit tired from the other night, so they’ll want a bit of revenge.
“The French day worked really well, but it’s just the chef showing off really. We’ve had scallops and everything so if we have dodgy bellies he’s going to get it.
“It’s important to understand the culture when you have such a big percentage of your squad from one nation.
“It was nice to have Mike around. He just wanted to see the new players and this was the first opportunity he had.
“I don’t think he speaks French, but he said hello. He’s a personable guy and it’s always good to have him here.”
Venue St James’ Park, Saturday 3pm
Last season Newcastle 0 Chelsea 3
Referee Howard Webb
This season’s matches 18 Y63, R2, 3.61 cards per game
Subs from Elliot, Simpson, Williamson, Yanga-Mbiwa, Amalfitano, Haïdara, Bigirimana, Marveaux, Sammy Ameobi, Shola Ameobi, Anita, Obertan, Mbabu
Injured Ben Arfa (hamstring, 24 Feb), R Taylor (knee, May), Vuckic (knee, Aug), Gosling (knee, unknown)
Unavailable Tioté (international duty)
Form guide WLDLLL
Disciplinary record Y47 R2
Leading scorer Cissé 5
Subs from Hilário, Turnbull, Malouda, Ferreira, Marin, Azpilicueta, Benayoun, Ake, Clifford, Gordon, Nkumu, Phillip
Doubtful Cech (calf), David Luiz (calf), Mata (ankle)
Injured Romeu (knee, Aug)
Suspended Hazard (last of three)
Unavailable Mikel, Moses (international duty)
Form guide DWDWLW
Disciplinary record Y34 R2
Leading scorers Lampard, Mata 9
Chelsea are unbeaten in their last five visits to St James’ Park, winning three of them and only conceding one goal.
Newcastle’s only league victory over Chelsea in the last 11 attempts was a 2-0 success at Stamford Bridge last May (W1, D4, L5).
Alan Pardew’s side earned their first win in six attempts in midweek.
They have not won a league game after going behind for 27 months since a 2-1 victory at West Ham in October 2010.
Newcastle have fielded eight different French players this season – a Premier League record.
Yohan Cabaye has scored an unrivalled five league goals from outside the penalty area since August 2011.
Goalkeeper Tim Krul and defender Mike Williamson have both made 99 appearances for Newcastle.
The Blues are one of two sides, along with Wigan, to have a better away record than at home this season.
They have the division’s second best goalscoring and defensive records.
Juan Mata has been directly involved in 18 Premier League goals (nine goals, nine assists) in 19 starts for Chelsea this season.
Frank Lampard has scored nine goals in 11 Premier League starts this season. He is one goal shy of becoming the first player to reach double figures in 10 consecutive Premier League seasons. He has scored 196 goals for Chelsea – six
behind the club’s record scorer Bobby Tambling.
Chelsea’s Demba Ba is still Newcastle’s top scorer this season with 13 goals. He has scored five goals in his last six league matches at St James’ Park.
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