Chelsea-Newcastle United Preview
There are no shortage of talking points heading into Saturday's match between host Newcastle United and Chelsea at St James' Park.
Steve McClaren's Newcastle side are in disarray. Yet to record a win in the Premier League, the Magpies (0-2-4) go into this contest on the back of three straight league defeats. But even more damaging for morale at the north east club was Wednesday's 1-0 defeat to second-tier Sheffield Wednesday in the League Cup, which was greeted by a chorus of boos from the Toon Army.
"Is the job harder than I thought? Absolutely. Without a doubt," a clearly frustrated McClaren said after the game. "People say it's a crisis and it's getting very close to it. We deserve to be criticised.
"We have said to the players: 'You can't feel sorry for yourselves. You have got to come out on Saturday and be a fighter or a victim.' It's one or the other, and we can only have fighters on there now. We have got to get people ready for Saturday, ready to fight. One result turns it around."
Chelsea's own chaotic start to the season has settled down in recent weeks - in terms of results at least.
Jose Mourinho's side have won three games on the spin in all competitions, including last weekend's much-needed 2-0 victory over London rivals Arsenal.
However, the Blues (2-1-3) will be without striker Diego Costa for three games as a result of his off-the-ball infringements in that win. The Brazilian-born Spanish international was handed a suspension retrospectively, while Arsenal defender Gabriel Paulista had his own red card rescinded.
That decision won't reduce the feeling at Chelsea that there is an anti-Chelsea "campaign" at the FA, but the Blues boss kept his comments on the issue short at his pre-match press conference.
"I don't comment. If I comment, bring examples, go deep and bring feelings into the discussion, a big suspension will be waiting for me. I don't want that, the team doesn't need that," Mourinho said, before commenting. "Now we know that retaliation is allowed. No problem, you can do it.
"Every time we lose a player it's not good for the team. I think it's easier to accept an injury. An injury is part of the game and we have to be mentally ready for it. This situation goes deeper in feelings. Obviously the team is hurt but as I was saying although I don't play, score goals, and tackle, my communication on the pitch is positive for the team, so I prefer to be quiet."
In addition to the absence of suspended Costa, Chelsea are still without first-choice goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois (knee) and could be without Brazilian midfielder Willian, who has a hamstring problem.
Another notable absentee in the dugout will be Dr. Eva Carneiro, who left the west London club this week, six weeks after having her role downgraded and being described as "naïve" by Mourinho for responding to a referee's request to issue treatment to Eden Hazard. Carneiro is now said to be "considering her legal position."
Newcastle's woes are compounded by a burgeoning injury list. The Magpies are without Massadio Haidara, Papiss Cisse, Karl Darlow, Steven Taylor, Paul Dummett, Emmanuel Riviere and Curtis Good, while Sylvain Marveaux, Cheick Tiote, Jack Colback, Rolando Aarons and Daryl Janmaat are all doubts.
Recent fortunes suggest a comfortable Chelsea win, but Newcastle have won their last three Premier League home games against the Blues. Mourinho has never won a Premier League game at St James' Park in five attempts.