Guus Hiddink has described his Chelsea players as a "team of Zorros" after the news that Diego Costa will have to wear a protective face mask against Newcastle United on Saturday.
The Spanish international joins Cesar Azpilicueta, Nemanja Matic and Gary Cahill, who have all had to wear similar masks this season after picking up facial injuries. Cesc Fabregas also donned one last season.
If the mask is Zorro-like, Chelsea's performances aren't quite living up to the billing.
The Mexican outlaw was known for being cunning and difficult to capture, which is completely unlike the Blues this season.
While they remain undefeated in the 10 games of Hiddink's reign as manager, Chelsea have won just four times. Indeed, they have drawn four successive home games in the league, with Hiddink's only Stamford Bridge victory coming in the FA Cup against Scunthorpe United.
So they may look the part with their masks, but fox-like Chelsea certainly haven't been. There have been positives, yet last weekend's 1-1 draw with Manchester United was confirmation that this team still has plenty more to achieve on the road to recovery.
Three points are much-needed against Newcastle on Saturday. Chelsea may well have pulled clear of the relegation zone, but a victory for Steve McClaren's men will drag the Blues back down to where they don't want to be.
It still feels like things are on a knife edge for the reigning Premier League champions. It's games such as this they need to be taking maximum points from if they are to finally break into the top 10.
"Newcastle have improved their squad with good substance, they made some good signings and they are more competitive now than they were in the previous time," Hiddink said ahead of Saturday's encounter.
"We take this game seriously because we want to head up the table."
Date: Saturday, February 13
Time: 5.30 p.m. GMT/12.30 p.m. ET
Venue: Stamford Bridge, London
TV Info: Sky Sports 1 (UK only)/NBC Sports (U.S. only)
Live Stream: Sky Go/NBCSN (U.S. only)
Last 5 Games
|Jan. 16||Chelsea 3-3 Everton|
|Jan. 24||Arsenal 0-1 Chelsea|
|Jan. 31||MK Dons 1-5 Chelsea|
|Feb. 3||Watford 0-0 Chelsea|
|Feb. 7||Chelsea 1-1 Manchester United|
|Jan. 12||Newcastle United 3-3 Manchester United|
|Jan. 16||Newcastle United 2-1 West Ham United|
|Jan. 23||Watford 2-1 Newcastle United|
|Feb. 3||Everton 3-0 Newcastle United|
|Feb. 6||Newcastle United 1-0 West Bromwich Albion|
|Newcaslte United FC|
The big news surrounding Chelsea ahead of this match is that Costa suffered a broken nose in training this week.
"It was not a tough duel, but he put his nose on the back of the head of one of the youngsters from the academy that we like to participate in our training games. He was very unlucky," manager Hiddink explained on Friday.
"They are putting a mask on Diego [...] I think he will be available, but we must see how he reacts in the light session. I hope, I am not sure, but I think he might be available."
That's a big concern as Radamel Falcao remains injured and Loic Remy is just getting back to match fitness. Alexandre Pato isn't fully match fit, either, after he joined on loan from Corinthians.
Kurt Zouma is out for the rest of the season after damaging knee ligaments against Manchester United last weekend.
As for Newcastle, their injury list is extensive. Daryl Janmaat (hip) and Jack Colback (hamstring) are doubts, but Paul Dummett, Chancel Mbemba, Siem De Jong, Kevin Mbabu, Vurnon Anita, Massadio Haidara, Tim Krul, Gabriel Obertan and Curtis Good will all miss out.
Predicted Chelsea XI (4-2-3-1): Courtois; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta; Mikel, Matic; Willian, Fabregas, Oscar; Costa
Predicted Newcastle United XI (4-1-4-1): Elliot; Janmaat, Taylor, Coloccini, Aarons; Tiote; Sissoko, Shelvey, Wijnaldum, Townsend; Mitrovic
Take the Spanish international out of this Chelsea side and the landscape looks very different. His seven goals in nine games really have impacted the Blues' campaign under Hiddink, and without him between now and May, it's going to be a struggle.
That's why news of the slightest injury is a big concern. Without another in-form striker of note, Chelsea's reliance on Costa is going to be significant. Not only are they attempting to win three points on Saturday to pull further away from the likes of Newcastle in the bottom half of the table, Chelsea face Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday.
The Champions League is a big factor in Chelsea's season remaining alive, and their striker is needed to ensure that doesn't change.
Costa will be vital against Newcastle on Saturday, as he has been in the resurgence we've witnessed since Hiddink took over. The hope from Chelsea's perspective is that any goals he scores will be match winners.
He's been a Newcastle player for barely a month, but Shelvey is already looking like a smart bit of business by Steve McClaren. He's a powerful runner from midfield and also has the capability to unlock defences with his skill and vision.
Indeed, Shelvey's lack of consistency has meant he has gone under the radar in the Premier League. He has a tendency to blow hot and cold, which has frustrated managers and fans alike simply because we know how good he can be.
Chelsea are fully aware of that fact, too. Shelvey gave Chelsea's midfield a good going over on the opening day of the season when Swansea City visited west London. Now he's back at Stamford Bridge, he'll be looking for a repeat performance.
Secondary ticket information for Chelsea can also be found here.
Chelsea 2-0 Newcastle United
Home Win: -278
Away Win: +734
First Goalscorer: Eden Hazard (13/2)
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