January 08, 2015

Newcastle United have been punchless in losing four straight away from home in the Premier League and a trip to Stamford Bridge doesn't seem like an inviting place to end those woes.

Guus Hiddink's side are enjoying the longest current unbeaten run in the Premier League at nine games, although the Magpies have been a bit of a bogey side for the Blues in recent years.

Newcastle have actually amassed more points than Chelsea in the last eight league meetings ahead of Saturday's late kick-off at the Bridge.

Steve McClaren saw his side obtain a crucial result in their battle against relegation with last Saturday's 1-0 victory at West Bromwich Albion. Aleksandar Mitrovic scored as the Magpies improved to 24 points and into 17th place to vault out of the drop and one point above 18th-placed Norwich City.

Newcastle had conceded five goals in consecutive defeats, including a 3-0 loss at Everton on Feb. 2. The Magpies, outscored 7-1 in their last four away matches, broke a run of nine straight matches without a clean sheet.

"It was a must three points for us, a massive game for us today," Mitrovic said. "After a bad game against Everton, we needed to prepare ourselves to forget that game and do everything to win tonight. I think we showed we learned something from that game."

Chelsea have won the last three home meetings with Newcastle, who have won four and drawn the other among the last eight overall. The Blues rallied from two goals down for a 2-2 draw at St James' Park on Sept. 26.

That was back when Jose Mourinho was still in charge and Eden Hazard was still starting for last season's champions. Hiddink has used Hazard off the bench in the Blues' last four league matches, although the Belgian playmaker started during that span in a 5-1 FA Cup thrashing at MK Dons on Jan. 31.

The Blues are in 13th place on 30 points and will likely have one eye on Tuesday's trip to face Paris Saint-Germain in the first leg of a Champions League round of 16 tie.

"We need to start getting up the table to where we should be," captain John Terry told the club's official website. "We are disappointed to be where we are in the league but the fans have been brilliant and stuck with us through thick and thin. The Champions League kicks in as well soon so the games are coming thick and fast and we must improve."

Chelsea have just three victories in this nine-match run in the league. That includes four straight draws at the Bridge in which they have conceded eight goals, capped by Sunday's 1-1 result against Manchester United.

"The Newcastle game next week is a very important one where we have to get the three points," goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois said. "We've had too many draws at Stamford Bridge and the supporters deserve a victory."

Courtois' defence will be weakened without Kurt Zouma, who will undergo knee surgery after tearing his right ACL on Sunday. Zouma has been ruled out the rest of the season and the European Championship for France.

Chelsea seek to avoid losing five home games in a single league season for the first time since 1995-96.

Diego Costa has scored six goals in seven league matches under Hiddink, including Sunday's late equaliser, after scoring three times in his first 14 games. He was suspended for the match at Newcastle but is expected to be available despite breaking his nose in practice challenging for a header.

McClaren has been showing off his January transfer window newcomers. Andros Townsend has started twice since joining, Jonjo Shelvey four times and Henri Saivet once. It's not clear when Seydou Doumbia will be handed his debut after coming over from CSKA Moscow.

"We're getting players fit over the next two or three weeks, this squad really will get stronger," McClaren said. "And that's exactly what I am hoping, that we get better and stronger as the season comes to an end."

The Magpies may delight in seeing Roger East in charge of this match. East was also in London as the referee in one of Newcastle's most stunning successes when they came from a goal down for a 2-1 victory at Tottenham Hotspur on Dec. 13.

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Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
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