Chelsea are still striving for their best form ahead of the Premier League clash against Newcastle United, according to Brazil midfielder Oscar.
The reigning champions have been long consigned to losing their crown following a dreadful start to the season under now-departed boss Jose Mourinho – late goals from Ramires and Willian to salvage a 2-2 draw at St James’ Park in September marking a relative high point during that tumultuous period.
Chelsea are unbeaten in nine league matches since the Portuguese parted company with the club, although six of these have ended all square under current manager Guus Hiddink.
Consequently, Chelsea are only six points above fourth-bottom Newcastle in 13th.
“We started off not doing well this season. Last year we would play well and win, this year we were playing well and not winning. The results are everything,” said Oscar in an interview with Sport magazine.
“It’s hard to answer [what has changed since Mourinho left]. It’s about giving trust to the players, showing the best football, helping Chelsea go back to winning games.
“It’s better now because we’ve started to win games again. We went back to playing well again. But when we lose, the mood is bad. When we win, the mood is good. It’s the same anywhere.”
Chelsea’s defence will display an enforced change on Saturday after Kurt Zouma sustained cruciate knee ligament damage to end his campaign in the 1-1 draw against Manchester United last Sunday.
Gary Cahill is favourite to partner captain John Terry at centre-back and Newcastle defender Steven Taylor hopes unpredictable striker Aleksandar Mitrovic can bring some of the fire from their training-ground duels to bear on the Chelsea duo.
“For me, he is a class act,” centre-back Taylor told nufc.co.uk, reflecting on a decisive goalscoring outing for the Serbia international in last weekend’s 1-0 triumph at home to West Brom.
“He is a good target man and is only young but is bullying experienced defenders and knocking them about. He takes a lot of hits but gets up and gets on with it.
“I thought he was outstanding against West Brom. He looked clinical, confident and showed that when he went through to score.
“I love playing against him. We have some great tussles in training but that’s what we want for each other.
“I give him a bit and he gives it back, because that’s what we’re both going to get in the Premier League.
“We have a great battle, we enjoy it, come off the pitch and have a cuddle. Playing like that is only going to help us both improve and that will be a good thing for Newcastle.”
There are plenty of other players in the Newcastle squad in need of an arm around the shoulder, although midfielder Jack Colback could depart a crowded treatment room and return to action from a hamstring complaint.
Radamel Falcao (groin) and Loic Remy (calf) are expected to remain out for Chelsea, while fellow striker Diego Costa will aim to maintain a hot streak of seven goals in his past nine matches that was prolonged by his last-gasp leveller versus Manchester United.
Key Opta stats:
– Newcastle United have taken more points off Chelsea (13) than any other team in the past five seasons.
– Diego Costa has six goals in his last seven Premier League appearances, having netted just three in his previous 14.
– Guus Hiddink has lost one of his 21 Premier League matches across two spells as Chelsea manager (W13 D7).
– Chelsea’s unbeaten run of nine matches is the longest ongoing in the Premier League.
– Newcastle have only won back-to-back Premier League games on one occasion since November 29, 2014.