Who: Newcastle United FC at Chelsea FC
Where: Stamford Bridge, London, England
When: Saturday, Aug. 25, 2012
Time: 17:30 p.m. GMT/12:30 p.m. ET/9:30 a.m. PT
TV: Fox Soccer Channel (USA)
Satellite Radio: Sirius Channel 92 (Internet 960)
Odds: Chelsea -1 -130, Newcastle +1, +110
3-Way Odds: Chelsea -225, Newcastle +625, Draw +340
Total: Over 2½ -145, Under 2½ +125
Source: LVH SuperBook, Las Vegas, Nev.
Newcastle United heads to Stamford Bridge on Saturday to face Chelsea in what promises to be a close and exciting match, but haven’t most of the Blues games this calendar year pretty much fit that bill?
Last season, the Magpies pretty much wiped out any chance of Chelsea finishing in the top four in the English Premier League with a 2-0 win in west London on May 2, so there may be a little bit of revenge on the minds of the European champions.
Newcastle and Chelsea split the season series, and the Blues' loss at The Bridge ended up helping the Magpies end up finishing one point ahead of Chelsea (65-64) and in fifth place in the table.
Both Newcastle and Chelsea could be a bit tired with both having midweek matches—the Blues having rallied in the second half to beat a game Reading side, 4-2 on Wednesday while the Magpies will be coming off a match against Atromitos FC in Athens, Greece, in the playoff round of the Europa League on Thursday.
Last season, Newcastle went 19-18-11 (8-3-8 road, 27 goals for, 34 against) and was vastly improved thanks to the performances of two of the EPL’s most exciting and prolific players, Demba Ba (16 goals) and Papiss Cissé (13).
In the 2-0 win at Chelsea, Cissé scored both goals, including an incredible one he deemed the best of his career and which was justly named the BBC's Goal of the Season.
Whereas the Magpies will have to concentrate on stopping the electric Eden Hazard, who has assisted on five of Chelsea’s six goals this young season, the Blues will need to try to contain the extremely talented Hatem Ben Arfa, who was named the Man of the Match in Saturday’s win over Spurs.
On Wednesday, Chelsea looked like they have for much of the past year, good at times but back on its heels at others and struggling to win the time of possession battle. And striker Fernando Torres, despite his gift goal, still looks to be struggling and is taking too long to possess the ball, get his feet right and pull the trigger on his shots.
Newcastle looked pretty average against Tottenham and after playing in Greece on Thursday then traveling to London, should be a bit tired on Saturday, a slight advantage for the Blues.
With Hazard—Belgium’s version of Lionel Messi—and Juan Mata looking like they’ve played together for years, expect Magpies goalkeeper Tim Krul to be under some pressure. And if Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo gives Oscar and Daniel Sturridge enough playing time, the offense may start to blossom.
But with Ba, Cissé and Ben Arfa, Newcastle can hang with any club in the league right now and Blues goalkeeper Petr Čech will have to be near-perfect and not make any mistakes as he did on the Royals’ Danny Guthrie's free kick on Wednesday.
I expect this match to be extremely close and tied 1-1 headed into the last 20 minutes with Chelsea doing what it has done best in big games of late—find a way to get that crucial game-winner and come away with the three points and stay on top of the table.
Anyone seeing value in betting Newcastle (+625) or the draw (+340) can rest assured those odds are extremely inflated in my opinion when you analyze the way the Blues have been playing in the last month. A draw or a Magpies upset is certainly not out of the question with their talented roster.
PREDICTION: Chelsea 2 Newcastle United 1
BET: Over 2½, -145
PICKS LAST MATCH: (1-1-0)
SEASON TO DATE: (4-1-0)
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