Despite the heading for this preview reading like some sort of poor quality breakfast cereal, it`s down to the serious business with the massive game against Chelsea on Sunday. Massive for them obviously, not us, as we`ve had absolutely rock all to play for since we got howked off Charlton at the Valley. Coming into the run with nine straight wins, having seen off Blackburn, Valencia and a host of PL clubs in that time the Rent Boys are still on for an 'unprecedented quadruple` as the media love to remind us. However, despite the proximity of our game to the Liverpool Champions League semi final, they will still be going great guns. With the Mancs playing (and probably stuffing) the Burra on Saturday afternoon the pressure goes back on to Jose Mourinho`s team in this 1.30pm Sky outing.
I don`t like Chelsea, with the club having creamed off a selection of former Man Utd reprobates from the Home Counties to add to their support, but I have to admit I`ve taken a great deal more interest in the title run in since it`s actually been a close run affair. With things at St James` limping along like a knackered greyhound and about as exciting as a Glenn Roeder press conference, the fascination of whether either them or the Mancs can sweep the board has been a good watch of late. While the media creamed themselves stupid over the seven goals against a frankly spineless Roma side, I thought the greater credit should have been given to the team that turned over a great Valencia side with an outstanding home record. Enough of the love in however and back to the game.
Glenn Roeder & Jose Mourinho
Newcastle Team News:
All the 'excitement` about the permanent England crock seems to have died down amidst the news he`s likely to come back against Reading. Well that is a relief for the nation! Fine tune himself with three half arsed warm up games for us before playing full pelt in two England games. Will they be forking out for 40% of his wages? Will they sh*te. Shola might be fit enough for a place on the bench but the one to watch is Andy Carroll. Back in September 2000 a 6 foot odd gangly striker was given his debut against Chelsea and didn`t do badly in a 0-0 draw. Can Carroll repeat what Shola did 6 and a half years ago? Elsewhere the local rags seem to be hinting at returns for Dyer, Sibierski and Parker against his former club. Duff is out for the rest of the season and is likely to be joined in the cripple club by Craig Moorecelino.
Tactically I fully expect Roeder to bottle it completely and play the uber-negative 4-5-1, squeezing in favourites Dyer, Parker and Butt into the middle plus Milner and Charles Le Sulk, to get bossed by Makelele, Essien, Joe Cole and Wright-Phillips despite being a man light.
Player to watch: Steven Taylor
Having been linked in some quarters to the Rent Boys it'll be key to the game to see how he copes with Drogba.
Chelsea Team News:
As for Chelsea - Essien is suspended for the CL leg so he`ll no doubt be their driving force come Sunday. Wright-Phillips and Drogba, a perennial pair of nemeses for us, will both be looking to add to their goals on Wednesday night against the 'Ammers`. Shevchenko is a doubt with a thigh strain so that hints at Kalou getting a run out. Robben, odious cheat that he is, won`t be in attendance as he`s joined the left winger crock club with Duff. Expect the diamond from the Special One, maybe with Joe Cole, maybe with Herr Ballack, who I admit I`d love to see play at SJP. £130k a week wages slightly precludes that one however…
Player to watch: Joe Cole
Has a nasty habit of scoring against us here. Coming back from injury he should be quite fresh too.
Premier League years v Chelsea
Home Games Only:
2006/07 Lost 0-1 (LC)
2005/06 Won 1-0 Bramble
2004/05 Drew 1-1 Geremi OG
2004/05 Won 1-0 Kluivert (FAC)
2004/05 Lost 0-2 (LC)
2003/04 Won 2-1 Ameobi, Shearer
2002/03 Won 2-1 Hasselbaink OG, Bernard
2001/02 Lost 1-2 Shearer
2000/01 Drew 0-0
1999/00 Lost 0-1
1998/99 Lost 0-1
1997/98 Won 3-1 Dabizas, Lee, Speed
1996/97 Won 3-1 Shearer 2, Asprilla
1995/96 Won 2-0 Ferdinand 2
1995/96 Drew 2-2 Albert, Beardsley
(lost on pens) (FAC)
1994/95 Won 4-2 Cole 2, Fox, Lee
1993/94 Drew 0-0
1-3 humping and the title race to go down to the final day.
Reading, Blackburn, Watford. End of the season and 100 different transfer links a month.