EPL: Chelsea Needs a Win From Newcastle
Manchester United's routine win over West Ham put the onus back onto Chelsea for their crucial trip to St. James Park to play Newcastle. If Chelsea don't win up North, then their dreams of a third title in four years will go up in red smoke.
Chelsea go into the Bank Holiday encounter with two season-deciding matches going in their favour. A 2-1 win over league rivals Man United kept them firmly in the hunt going into this round of matches.
Heading into their titanic Champions League semifinal, Chelsea had the advantage, albeit from a fortuitous John Arne Riisse own goal.
Didier Drogba led the Blues charge, supplying two goals while Frank Lampard netted a penalty capping off an emotionally charged match in a 3-2 win.
A champions league final in Moscow is owner Roman Ambramovich's dream and since he is content with the titles won in 05 & 06, will the players have one eye on the Luzhniki Stadium setpiece?
Newcastle are second in the Premiership's form table with 14 points taken from a possible 18 (Chelsea are first with 16 from 18) and come into their final home fixture scoring goals freely.
Keegan has struck gold in his front trio of Michael Owen, Obafemi Martins and Mark Viduka. They have scored 11 goals in seven games between them. Newcastle's defence, usually the achilles heel of the side, has tightened up, coincidentally with the arrival of ex-Spurs defensive coach Chris Hughton.
Avram Grant hit out at Alan Curbishley's comments that "it would be an injustice if Sir Alex Ferguson's side don't win the league."
Grant may be attempting to replicate the mind games Fergie has so often used but his suspicions won't have been eased by the lack of resistance put up against the Reds' title charge.
Grant's future itself is under question that Abramovich is set to dispatch the Israeli. Grant, however, remains calm over the situation.
"I have good contact and relationship with Roman," he said. "Why everyone thinks differently, I don't know." However it is well in Abramovich's nature to dump Grant in favour of a more glamourous manager, like Rikaard.
Kevin Keegan insists despite his famous rivalry with Man United in 1996, that his side will play to win and Chelsea will have to earn anything they get.
"I want us to put in a performance against Chelsea, and if United win the title, that's just the way it goes."
Keegan, like many other Premier League managers, has taken the time out to express support for Grant.
"Are managers to be judged by how good they are on TV, how many jokes they tell, how they get on with the media - or by results?" he asked. "That is what he should be judged on. Yes, he lost his first game, but his record since then is incredible. People may say he's not doing a very good job there, but it makes the rest of us look very vulnerable if Avram Grant is in trouble.”
All in all, the ingredients are there for a cracker to be served up at St. James Park: Newcastle's free flowing attacking lineup against Chelsea's superstars needing to grind out a result to pressure Man United in the title race.
A shock could be on the cards, and personally I hope its a game that makes the world sit up and see the openness of the Premier League.
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