Newcastle United vs Chelsea
Newcastle enjoy playing Chelsea at St. James’ Park.
The chance to uproot the so-called aristocrats of West London, for that is what they have become since the investment boon that transformed the club when billionaire Roman Abramovich arrived on the scene in 2003.
Perhaps they see it as a Premier League clash akin to a meeting between traditionalists from an English footballing hotbed against the nouveau-riche; the new money, from the capital.
After all, for some time, both clubs were in similar positions.
But while Newcastle remain a sleeping giant, Chelsea’s resources have seen them become a giant, capturing five Premier League titles and numerous other trophies in a period when the Toon Army have been bouncing between the top two divisions.
It must hurt that the tables have been completely turned, yet this match – for 90 minutes at least – provides a chance for Newcastle to end a largely disappointing festive run in form and potentially inflict damage on Chelsea’s top-four hopes.
Newcastle have already shown their liking for the big occasion.
Last season, they defeated the champions and this term drew with them on home soil, so St. James’ Park can be a fortress.
Despite being a far from popular choice among home fans, Geordie boss Steve Bruce is doing a decent job with a squad which is weaker than the one predecessor Rafa Benitez had at his disposal.
Bruce broadly endorses Newcastle’s reluctance to invest heavily in players aged over 25 due to a lack of resale value. But the coach will need to sit down with owner, sportswear tycoon Mike Ashley, this week to thrash out a plan for what remains of the January transfer window.
There is no question of the need to strengthen to avoid getting drawn into a relegation battle.
Chelsea also need to strengthen but are a very different proposition with cover in most areas across the pitch, despite a summer transfer ban which was in place until recently.
The players they are being linked with are very much at the top end of the spectrum, such as Moussa Dembélé, with the club reportedly considering whether to test Lyon’s determination not to sell the striker this month.
How Newcastle would love to be considered in the market for such a player, as they once would have been.
Whether we see Premier League 2020 highlights this weekend remains to be seen, but the difference in style between the two managers with contrasting squads could be fascinating.
One manager (Bruce), a three-time title winner with Manchester United, was probably the best player not to be selected for England for a generation, against another (Frank Lampard) who also won three Premier League titles and was a key figure for club and country for more than a decade.
And then there are the owners, one largely loved due to his investment, the other maligned and actually hated in areas on Tyneside due to what fans perceive to be a complete lack of investment that has taken the club to the precipice at times.
Neither will be in the stadium for this one. Their legacies will be very much on show, though.
It was a case of the late show in this fixture last season.
In just the third week of the campaign, Chelsea triumphed thanks to a late own goal after Eden Hazard and Joselu had traded goals all in the last 14 minutes.
That was actually Chelsea’s first win in six visits to Tyneside, although they have beaten them twice since, including a home triumph in October when Marcos Alonso netted the only goal.
Traditionally, Chelsea have the edge with 74 victories compared to Newcastle’s 53 and a further 39 draws.
Their most famous modern-day meeting was, probably an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley in 2000, when two Gus Poyet goals earned Chelsea a 2-1 success as they went onto win the competition to spark two decades of silverware.
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