Rafael Benitez takes Chelsea to St James' Park to play Newcastle United on Saturday 2 February. The fixture marks Senegalese striker Demba Ba's first return to the Magpies' home ground since his transfer to Stamford Bridge in January. The last time these sides met was in west London, when the Blues won 2-0.
Where to Watch
Kick-off is set for 3pm GMT. Catch highlights of the game on Match of the Day on BBC One and BBC One HD at 10.30pm GMT.
Newcastle's January spending paid immediate dividends, with debutants Yoan Gouffran and Moussa Sissoko instrumental in a first away league win of the campaign. Goals from Papiss Cisse and Yohan Cabaye led to a relatively easy 2-1 win at Aston Villa and raised hopes the Tyneside club may be able to salvage this season. Newcastle are 15th in the league, with 24 points. Alan Pardew knows he needs good results, consistently, to keep the threat of relegation at bay.
It hasn't all been smooth sailing though. Newcastle suffered an embarrassing defeat to Championship club Brighton in the FA Cup in January and with visits to Tottenham and the UEFA Europa League knock-out round match against Ukrainians Metalist Kharkiv next on the agenda, the club needs to find top gear soon.
Chelsea come into this game after a shocking final ten minutes at Reading. The Blues were leading comfortably, with goals from Juan Mata and Frank Lampard before a brace from substitute Adam Le Fondre rescued a point for the Royals. Benitez later admitted he was surprised by the result but Chelsea will be expected to shake off those blues and take three points from St James' Park, as they bid to hold off Tottenham for third.
It will worry Benitez, though, that his side have won only once in the last five games and memories of the controversial 0-0 draw at Swansea City, in the Capital One Cup semi-final, may still be on some players' minds.
- Last Five (all competitions, most recent first): W L D L L
- Last Result: Aston Villa 1 - 2 Newcastle United
- Last Five (all competitions, most recent first): D D D W D
- Last Result: Reading 2 - 2 Chelsea
Newcastle have a number of injury concerns with French international Hatem Ben Arfa (hamstring), Ryan Taylor, Dan Gosling, Haris Vuckic (all knee) and Danny Simpson (toe) all unavailable. Club captain Fabricio Coloccini has resolved his contract situation and will start in the centre of defence. He is likely to be joined by Steven Taylor, who put in an excellent show against Villa in midweek. Expect a number of the new signings to play a role as well, with right-back Mathieu Debuchy, Sissoko and Gouffran certain to start.
Probable Line-Up: Krul; Debuchy, Taylor, Coloccini, Santon; Perch, Cabaye; Gouffran, Sissoko, Gutierrez; Cisse
Ba returns to St James' Park and could feature ahead of Fernando Torres in Chelsea's attack, particularly since the Spanish international continues to be frustratingly inconsistent. Belgian winger Eden Hazard is unavailable because of the suspension incurred during the Swansea ballboy incident. Brazil defender David Luiz (calf) is also unavailable, as is Spanish midfielder Oriel Romeu (knee). Nigerians Victor Moses and John Obi Mikel are with their national team at the African Cup of Nations.
The good news is Czech goalkeeper Petr Cech could play, replacing the error-prone Ross Turnbull as No 1. The other good news is captain John Terry could also feature.
Probable Line-Up: Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Cole; Ramires, Lampard; Mata, Oscar, Bertrand; Ba
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