Chelsea vs. Newcastle: 7 Key Players to Watch in Crucial Premier League Clash

Allan JiangTransfers CorrespondentMay 1, 2012

Chelsea vs. Newcastle: 7 Key Players to Watch in Crucial Premier League Clash

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    UEFA Champions League football is on the line when Chelsea host Newcastle United at Stamford Bridge Wednesday. 

    Chelsea go into the game with confidence having thrashed Queens Park Rangers and are sixth in the table with 61 points, one behind Newcastle, who sit fifth. (The top four finishers make it to the Champions League.)

    Newcastle effectively gave up their game in a disappointing loss to Wigan Athletic. They haven't been able to beat Chelsea in their last nine Premier League encounters. 

    Here are seven key players to watch.

7. Yohan Cabaye

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    To call Yohan Cabaye a hidden gem shows the level of ignorance toward Ligue 1 football. 

    He was Mr. Consistent when I watched him for Lille and it doesn't surprise me that he has become one of the best midfielders in the Premier League. 

    He can win back possession, he create shots and is a leader—nothing has changed since his days at Lille. 

    Spending £4.4 million for someone as complete as Cabaye is a bargain. Meanwhile, Chelsea spent £12 million on Raul Meireles. 

6. Hatem Ben Arfa

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    Hatem Ben Arfa is one of the most lethal inside-out wingers in world football. Left-backs have no answers to Ben Arfa cutting in and either shooting or passing. 

    The key word is passing because he used to be more selfish than Daniel Sturridge. 

5. Juan Mata

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    Juan Mata is the closest form to my hero Gianfranco Zola. 

    In the Premier League, Mata has completed 87 percent of his passes and 77 percent of long passes, created 100 shots for his teammates and accumulated 13 assists. 

    He should always play centrally where he can control the tempo of the game and thread through balls for Fernando Torres.  

4. Fabricio Coloccini

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    Fabricio Coloccini is one of the best centre-backs in the league. 

    He needs to be sharp against Chelsea but if he plays the way he did against Wigan Athletic, Newcastle United will lose. 

    No disrespect to Mike Williamson or James Perch, but I'm surprised Coloccini hasn't been exposed more often when playing with the two aforementioned players. Williamson is mediocre and Perch is inconsistent. 

    With regards to Steven Taylor, he hasn't managed to play 40 games in a season for the past four years. 

    In the last three years, he has dislocated his shoulder, pulled his hamstring and ruptured his Achilles tendon. 

    Newcastle United need to buy a centre-back in the summer.  

3. Ramires

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    Chelsea's player of the season: Ramires. 

    This season, he has won back possession 183 times whilst also being a one-man counterattack for Chelsea. 

    His pace, his seemingly unlimited energy and selfless nature ensures he'll be one of the world's best midfielders for seasons to come. 

    He could potentially score 20 goals next season if he becomes more efficient in front of goal. 

2. Papiss Cissé

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    Newcastle United bought Papiss Cissé, one of the Bundesliga's best players, for £9 million. 

    Chelsea bought Marko Marin, whom kicker rank as the Bundesliga's 107th-best player, for £7 million. 

    Sometimes having too much money isn't a good thing. 

    I had profiled Cissé last year and ranked him as one of Africa's best players but I did not envision him scoring at a Gerd Müller-esq rate for Newcastle. 

    Maybe 0.60 goals per game, but a goal every game? No way. 

1. Fernando Torres

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    Fernando Torres hat trick against Queens Park Rangers is a step in the right direction. 

    He probably should have scored more given he managed to reel off eight shots against a QPR side prone to dropping their heads—as evident in a 4-0 loss to Bolton Wanderers and a 6-0 loss to Fulham

    Torres has played selflessly this season, providing 16 assists and creating 30 shots for his teammates. 

    Keep in mind, he has been forced to play with Daniel Sturridge, who refuses to consistently provide incisive passes to him. 

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    Please read Why United shouldn't sign Shinji Kagawa

    Statistics courtesy of WhoScored.comtransfermarkt.co.uk and football-lineups.com