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Premier League preview: Newcastle v Chelsea

Newcastle United will be hoping to heap more pain on Chelsea as they welcome Rafael Benitez’s men to St James’ Park on Saturday.

Chelsea are now 13 points behind leaders Manchester United after their 2-2 draw with Reading on Wednesday, in which substitute Adam Le Fondre’s brace eroded a 2-0 Chelsea lead in the last few minutes.

It is always an intimidating atmosphere travelling to the far north east of England in front of a packed Newcastle faithful and Chelsea will be looking to overcome recent poor results against Reading, Southampton (2-2) and Queens Park Rangers (0-1).

Newcastle have endured their own run of poor form this term – Alan Pardew’s team have lost 10 of their last 14 league encounters and have duly been sucked into the relegation dogfight.

A 2-1 win against Aston Villa on Tuesday will leave Pardew hoping the poor results are behind them as he attempts to integrate his five new French signings into the squad.

The last contest between the two sides saw Chelsea, led by Fernando Torres and Eden Hazard, win 2-0 against Newcastle at Stamford Bridge in late August.

A poor run of form for Newcastle this season coincided with a lack of goal-scoring support for Demba Ba, with situation becoming worse when the Senegalese striker moved at the start of the transfer window to Chelsea.

Papiss Cisse hit 13 goals in 14 appearances last campaign after Pardew poached him in January, but he has struggled to recreate that form this season, only finding the net five times in 22 games – although he did score against Villa in mid-week.

Chelsea have had an unsettled campaign and are yet to decide whether Ba or Torres is their leading man, with Benitez intent on rotating the two strikers.

The evergreen Frank Lampard again found the net against Reading, a goal which drew him level as Chelsea’s top league scorer this season with Juan Mata on eight goals.

A big blow for Benitez is the absence of creative winger Eden Hazard, who will be serving the second match of his three-game ban for interfering with a ball-boy.

His replacement against Reading, Ryan Bertrand, is likely to continue.

Newcastle will be without Hatem Ben Arfa (hamstring) and Ryan Taylor (knee) but have started to play some of their French signings with Yoan Gouffran, Moussa Sissoko and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa all making their debut against Villa, while Mathieu Debuchy will be making his fourth appearance in defence.

Chelsea have a good record at St James’ Park, having not lost their past six matches at the venue, with their last defeat a 1-0 reverse back in 2006.

Thu 31 January, 2013
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