MX23RW : Tuesday, May 21 15:20:51| >> :600:32343078:32343078:
May 13, 2018 at 3pm UK at ​St James' Park
Attendance: 52,294
NewcastleNewcastle United
Gayle (23'), Perez (59', 63')
FT(HT: 1-0)

Preview: Newcastle United vs. Chelsea - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole provides predicted lineups, team news and a full match preview of Chelsea's Premier League encounter with Newcastle United.

Chelsea make the long trip to St James' Park to face Newcastle United knowing that only three points will do if they are to maintain hope of achieving a top-four spot in the Premier League table.

Newcastle United have already secured their status in the top flight for another 12 months, but Rafael Benitez will be keen to avoid ending the campaign with five successive defeats.

Newcastle United

Rafael Benitez squats and barks during the Premier League game between Manchester United and Newcastle United on November 18, 2017© SilverHub

Throughout the season, Newcastle have been regarded as a team who could possibly be dragged into a relegation battle but had the potential to end the campaign in the middle of the table, and that is exactly how it has turned out.

Newcastle put together a run of eight defeats in nine matches during the closing weeks of 2017 and it resulted in the Magpies spending time in the bottom three, but the 3-2 win over West Ham United on December 23 eased the pressure and the club have been on a relatively upward curve ever since.

As many as 26 points were recorded from the following 15 games and it proved enough to secure safety with five fixtures to spare, but Benitez now has a task on his hands to ensure that the club at least retain some momentum ahead of next season.

Newcastle under-performed in the two matches which followed reaching the 40-point mark, but there was an improvement in the 2-1 defeat to Watford and the North-East giants should have recorded at least a point from their visit to Wembley Stadium to face Tottenham Hotspur.

The positive that remains is that Newcastle still sit in 10th position in the standings, although that is more of a reflection of the lack of consistency from teams in the bottom half of the table than Benitez's men being the definitive 10th-best outfit in English football.

That said, victory on Sunday would effectively ensure that Newcastle equal their highest finish in the Premier League in five attempts with only the fifth place of 2011-12 - an anomaly in Newcastle's recent history - outdoing that over a 12-year period.

Regardless of whether 10th is achieved or not, the statistics highlight that Benitez has done a tremendous job on Tyneside. Much of the Spaniard's spending over the course of the season has been offset by player sales, yet he has still established Newcastle as a top-flight club again.

There are still question marks over where Newcastle progress from here and much of that will depend on whether Benitez stays and if a takeover is completed but for now, there is reason for optimism at a club who may need another 12 months of consolidation before taking that next step.

Recent form: WWLLLL


Antonio Conte watches on intently during the Premier League game between Crystal Palace and Chelsea on October 14, 2017© Offside

Chelsea head into the final day of the Premier League as the form team in the division but the fact that the late run of results from the Blues could count for little tells you everything that you need to know about their title defence.

Antonio Conte's side never truly recovered from an opening-day defeat to Burnley and once Manchester City and Crystal Palace had inflicted back-to-back setbacks on the West Londoners by the middle of October, the champions were always playing catch-up.

Chelsea have put together small winning streaks this season but they have not recorded five victories in a row at any point in the campaign and with Man City in all-conquering form, that was never going to be enough.

To Conte's credit, he has been able to galvanise a squad which allegedly was not prepared to give their all for him at one stage, but the 1-1 draw against Huddersfield Town on Wednesday night has left the club requiring a miracle to achieve Champions League football next season.

The Italian has acknowledged that his first-team squad have not been ruthless in front of goal and it is a correct assessment, with Chelsea having only scored more than two goals in a Premier League match on one occasion in 10 attempts.

Conte would probably have preferred to place more focus on next weekend's FA Cup final, but the former Juventus manager finds himself in a position where he must play his best team and hope that Brighton & Hove Albion can pull off a surprise at Anfield.

That said, Conte took the opportunity to rest players in midweek and the likes of Gary Cahill, Eden Hazard and Olivier Giroud will all want to continue their recent impressive form if they are handed a recall to the starting lineup.

There are arguably benefits to a season in the Europa League with the club being provided with a platform to give many of their academy graduates and prospects game time in senior football but in the short term, Chelsea want to end the year on a positive note and give themselves the best preparation ahead of the Wembley clash with Manchester United.

Recent form: DWWWWD
Recent form (all competitions): WWWWWD

Team News

Eden Hazard in action during the Premier League game between Manchester City and Chelsea on March 4, 2018© Offside

Conte is expected to make further changes to his starting lineup as he looks to keep players fresh ahead of next week's FA Cup final.

Cahill, Hazard and Giroud should all return, with Cesar Azpilicueta, Pedro and Alvaro Morata potentially making way, while Tiemoue Bakayoko could return in midfield.

Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois is also expected to start after Conte revealed that the Belgian had trained with the rest of the squad on Friday.

As for Newcastle, Benitez has confirmed that Ciaran Clark and Christian Atsu remain unavailable due to injury, while Kenedy is unable to face his parent club.

Jacob Murphy is expected to be brought into the starting lineup, but the rest of the team could remain the same.

Newcastle United possible starting lineup:
Dubravka; Yedlin, Lascelles, Lejeune, Dummett; Diame, Shelvey, Ritchie, Perez, Murphy; Gayle

Chelsea possible starting lineup:
Courtois; Rudiger, Christensen, Cahill; Moses, Kante, Bakayoko, Alonso; Willian, Hazard, Giroud

Head To Head

Sunday's encounter will represent the 163rd competitive meeting between the two clubs, with Chelsea registering 71 wins in comparison to 52 victories for Newcastle.

Chelsea are unbeaten in their last five matches with Newcastle in all competitions but the West Londoners possess a poor record at St James' Park, with three defeats and a draw coming from their last four visits.

The teams have already squared off on two occasions this season, with Chelsea running out convincing 3-1 and 3-0 winners in the Premier League and FA Cup respectively.

Sports Mole Logo

We say: Newcastle United 1-1 Chelsea

Chelsea will no doubt adopt a positive strategy in the North-East and that should lead to frequent opportunities being created in the final third. However, the Blues do not possess a great record at St James' Park and we are backing Newcastle to earn a share of the spoils.

Who will win Sunday's Premier League clash between Newcastle United and Chelsea?

Newcastle United
Newcastle United
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Eden Hazard in action during the Premier League game between Manchester City and Chelsea on March 4, 2018
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