Chelsea Looks to Maintain Form and Seal a Third Straight Win
It’s back to action in the Premier League for Chelsea, who look to stay in the mix for a top-four spot Saturday when they host Newcastle United at Stamford Bridge.
The Pensioners (4-2-2), who are solid -350 favorites to claim a third league victory on the trot according to the FanDuel Sportsbook, are bracketed by upstarts Leicester City and Crystal Palace on 14 points and enter this match fifth in the table. Chelsea are just two points behind two-time champions Manchester City for second but a distant 10 adrift of rampaging table-toppers Liverpool.
Frank Lampard’s side finally showed some defensive chops ahead of the international break, conceding just one goal combined in victories over Brighton and Hove Albion and Southampton. Striker Tammy Abraham, who shares the Premier League lead with City’s Sergio Aguero with eight goals, also committed his international future with England with his first appearance in a qualifying match for the Three Lions.
Abraham made a late entrance in England’s 2-1 loss to the Czech Republic and did not play in their 6-0 thrashing of Bulgaria – a match in which Chelsea teammate Ross Barkley had a brace and set up a third — as Gareth Southgate’s team remained atop Group A in European qualifying with two matches remaining. Mason Mount started in the loss to the Czechs before being dropped from the first XI in the second qualifier.
Striker Olivier Giroud may have been the most productive of Chelsea’s players during the international break, converting a match-winning penalty for France in their 1-0 qualifying win at Iceland and giving the reigning World Cup champions a brief lead in their 1-1 draw versus Turkey. The four points left Les Bleus in second place in Group H behind Turkey on the head-to-head tiebreaker but four points clear of Iceland with two matches remaining.
Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic Continues to Perplex and Chelsea Odds vs. Newcastle United
American Christian Pulisic had mixed results as he tries to work his way up the pecking order in Chelsea’s attack. The 21-year-old capped the scoring in the Yanks’ 7-0 rout of Cuba from the penalty spot in the 62nd minute in their first CONCACAF Nations League match but was surprisingly subbed off on the hour in their historically disappointing 2-0 defeat at Canada on Wednesday.
U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter said Pulisic had been dealing with flu-like symptoms, but the American playmaker cut a frustrated figure as he went to the bench for the final half-hour with the outcome still at stake. Pulisic did register his second Premier League assist in Chelsea’s win over Southampton on Oct. 6 but still faces an uphill battle for playing time.
Though Newcastle United are heavy +1,000 underdogs to end a seven-match losing streak in all competitions at Stamford Bridge since Papiss Cisse scored on either side of halftime in a 2-0 victory in 2012, the Magpies (2-2-4) have punched above their weight at times this term.
Both of their victories have come against Big Six sides, first upending Tottenham Hotspur at their gleaming new stadium and more recently knocking off a subpar and injury-plagued Manchester United side 1-0 at home ahead of the international break. The Toons are still a goal-starved outfit – their five goals are better than only last-place Watford – as teen Matty Longstaff provided the distance playing alongside older brother Sean for the first time at the senior level.
That 2012 victory stands as Newcastle’s only Premier League victory in 24 matches at Stamford Bridge (1-6-17). Chelsea have outscored the Magpies by a combined 48-13 count in those matches, including 17-3 in winning the last six after doing the double by 2-1 scorelines in both matches last term.
–By Chris Altruda