Who: Chelsea FC vs. Newcastle United FC
What: English Premier League Week 25
Where: Stamford Bridge, West London, England
When: Saturday February 8, 2014
Weather: The Weather Channel forecast Stamford Bridge
Time: 3 p.m. GMT/10 a.m. ET/7 a.m. PT
TV: NBC Sports Live Extra, USA Network, Mun2 (U.S.)
Worldwide Live Streams and TV Channels: LiveSoccerTV.com
Radio: SiriusXM FC, talkSPORT Radio
Referee: Howard Webb
3-Way Odds: Chelsea -450, Newcastle United +1200, Draw +540
Total: Over 2½ -145, Under 2½ +120
Decimal Odds: Chelsea 1.22, Newcastle United 13.00, Draw 6.30
Decimal Total: Over 2½ 1.59, Under 2½ 2.20
Fractional Odds: Chelsea 2/9, Newcastle United 12/1, Draw 53/10
Fractional Total: Over 2½ 20/29, Under 2½ 6/5
Alternate Odds: Chelsea -1 -285, Newcastle United +1 +225
Over 3½ +180, Under 3½ -220
First Half: Chelsea -155, Newcastle United +850, Draw +165
Odds to Win Premier League: Chelsea 7/4
Source: Bovada (Kahnawake, Canada)
3-Way Odds: Chelsea -450, Newcastle United +1300, Draw +400
Total: Over 3 +120, Under 3 -140
Source: LVH SuperBook (Las Vegas, Nevada USA)
After beating Manchester City on Monday at the Etihad Stadium, Chelsea expectations suddenly intensified for this season no matter how coy wily Blues manager Jose Mourinho tries to dismiss the present situation with cryptic talk of "horses and milk," as quoted by BBC Sport's Phil McNulty.
And it wasn’t necessarily just the reality of being the first team to beat the Sky Blues on their own soil or become the first to hold them scoreless at the Etihad this season but more so the realization that the team may have shored up a real need in defensive midfield with the acquisition of Nemanja Matic—as was born out with his superb play against the almost-always-brilliant Yaya Toure.
Toss in a friendly reminder that a defender (Branislav Ivanovic) can always be the hero and come up with the game-winning goal and, quite simply, that Chelsea was finally playing and clicking both offensively and defensively as a team, and you can see why Blues fans are now about as giddy as Toronto mayor Rob Ford at Hershey's Chocolate World during “Chocolate-Covered February.”
Oh, the imagery. There will be thud.
But enough giddiness for Pablo Picasso to possibly start another Blue Period in Heaven? Not so fast, mi hermano. Why Punxsutawney Phil just went back in his hole and it’s not even Valentine’s Day yet, so I’d suggest you quickly slow your little roll there and concentrate on the Blues winning the matches their supposed to win before uttering the phrases “English Premier League champions” or “UEFA Champions League final."
And no silverware is won with three-and-a-half-feet of bleeding snow on the ground anyway. Anywhere.
On Saturday, Chelsea will be playing in one of those matches it will be expected to win from this point on—because of the City win—by management, Mourinho, fans and the players themselves when it welcomes a limping Newcastle United to West London for some tea and a possible swift kick or five in the old shins. Sport.
In their last game on Saturday, Alan Pardew and the eighth-place Magpies were embarrassed by rivals Sunderland as the Black Cats snatched a 3-0 win at St. James’ Park in the Tyne-Wear derby, marking the first time since 1923 that Sunderland has defeated Newcastle three straight times. Woe is thee.
And despite the Toon’s decent record (11-4-9) and pretty impressive current spot on the league table, Newcastle’s recent form (1-1-4 last six, 19th) has been about as impressive as Justin Bieber’s behavior as of late. So remember this point in the season, because it looks like it could be tough for the visitors to finish in the upper half of the standings. It's most likely they'll leave postcode area SW6 with the same number of points they did coming in with (37).
Only seven teams have allowed fewer goals than the Magpies (31), thanks in great part to goalkeeper Tim Krul, but the 25-year-old Dutchman may be one of the few Newcastle players Chelsea can anticipate seeing that it would have expected to see looking at this game on the schedule before the season started.
Anyone who could have really been a threat to even an average-running Chelsea side for Newcastle is either banned, injured or gone. To make prospects worse for the Magpies, the Blues they have never lost in Premier League play under The Special One at home, and they're in a calendar year where they have yet to lose and have only allowed one goal.
Toon leading scorer Loic Remy (11 goals) will be serving the second of a three-game ban; Newcastle’s second-leading scorer, Yohan Cabaye (seven goals), was sold to Paris Saint-Germain over the January transfer window; and the club’s third-leading scorer, Yoan Gouffran (six goals), has groin problems. It's never good to have groin problems, my friends.
Toss in issues with Papiss Cisse (back), Cheick Tiote (hamstring), Fabricio Coloccini (knee), Gabriel Obertan (knee) and Ryan Taylor (knee), and it will have to be up to guys like Hatem Ben Arfa (three goals, two assists), Moussa Sissoko (five goals) and new signing Luuk de Jong to give the massive underdog Geordies (+1200) a chance against the third-place hosts.
Chelsea (16-5-3) and goalkeeper Petr Cech have allowed a league-low 20 goals—just nine of those at The Bridge—and after the win over City, are the only club undefeated at home (10-2-0) left in England’s top flight of football. The brilliant back four of Cesar Azpilicueta, fearless captain John Terry and the perennially underrated duo of Gary Cahill and Ivanovic, combined with the expectations of Mourinho winning at home is a pretty nasty thing for opponents to have to overcome.
In recent games in this series, Newcastle has played the Blues fairly evenly, with Chelsea holding a slight 4-3-3 edge (14-10 goals) over the last 10 EPL meetings. The last time these two met back in November, the Magpies sent the Blues home 2-0 losers courtesy of second-half goals by Gouffran and Remy, so expect Mourinho to use that as psychological fuel to the fire to prepare his boys for this fixture.
Cech will no doubt start, and the back four will likely be the same although Mourinho may decide to give Ashley Cole the nod to keep his game fitness and head sharp. One never knows what this good doctor will prescribe.
David Luiz and the aforementioned Matic may start in defensive midfield although John Obi Mikel or possibly Frank Lampard (four goals) may get the call.
New partners in Premier League tika-taka crime Eden Hazard and Willian should again be in the attacking midfield running circles around Geordies, with new signing Mohamed Salah (FC Basel) possibly joining in the weekend fun as well.
Striker Fernando Torres (four goals) is now training again after a knee injury, but I expect either Samuel Eto’o (six goals) or former Magpies stud Demba Ba to be up top in Mourinho’s starting XI.
Newcastle (6-1-5 road, 15 goals for, 16 goals against) will probably put up a valiant fight in this one, but that imminent first goal from Chelsea will spark expectations of a second, and until somebody scores on Cech and this defense, I will continue to predict zeroes for opponents in this space. Much easier riding the horse in the direction he’s going eh, celery breath?
The Blues have a quick turnaround with a Tuesday (Feb. 11) game at The Hawthorns against West Bromwich Albion then the always-challenging schedule dishes up another duel with Manchester City in at the Etihad (Feb. 15) in the fifth round of the FA Cup.
Chelsea then returns home to West London to host Everton on league play (Feb. 22) before beginning its Champions League Round of 16 battle with club legend Didier Drogba and Galatasaray in Istanbul (Feb. 26).
We're all surely in the right place at the right time right now. Better rest up, people, and make sure you have enough batteries for the remote.
Prediction: Chelsea 2 Newcastle United 0
Bet: Chelsea -1 -250
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