Few would have predicted this encounter as a pivotal matchup in the battle for Champions League spots at the beginning of the season.
However, a loss for Chelsea on Saturday night at St. James’ Park would put the Blues nine points behind third-place Newcastle and may very well see them as low as 10th when the Premier League takes a break for the World Cup.
The Blues’ defense has been compromised by injuries, and they have gone four Premier League games without a victory. Graham Potter’s visitors are also struggling as they slouch near the midseason break.
The in-form Magpies under Eddie Howe will be aware of the tremendous chance to deal a major blow to the competition for spots in Europe.
While claiming that Chelsea’s backline, which is set to include Brazilian captain Thiago Silva and Spanish international Cesar Azpilicueta, is down to the bare essentials seems a stretch, Potter’s team has undoubtedly been severely affected by injuries.
The manager of the Blues may not have his first-choice players in goal, at either or both wing-back positions, in defensive midfield, or in central defense, which unquestionably leaves Chelsea more exposed.
In Chelsea’s last two games, Brighton and Arsenal both took advantage of that defensive weakness, and it might happen again this weekend.
Newcastle have scored four goals or more in four of their last seven matches.
Only one of Newcastle’s 14 Premier League games this season have the Magpies lost, and that loss was definitely unlucky as Liverpool defeated the Magpies at Anfield with a 98th-minute winner.
While Howe’s team struggled with a string of draws early in the season, they have yet to produce less than 1.5 predicted goals at St. James’ Park, including 1.8 against Manchester City.
Against even the top opponents, Newcastle has regularly produced a sizable amount of opportunities.
Given Chelsea’s dismal record this season against the better Premier League teams, it seems doubtful that they will repeat their four-match winning streak against Newcastle.
Despite being ranked seventh, the Blues are debatably being overawed by their standing given that they have only faced four of the top nine clubs thus far.
They have lost all of those as well, drawing with Tottenham and Manchester United at home, losing 4-1 to Brighton two weeks ago, and losing 1-0 to Arsenal last weekend.
Alexander Isak, a striker for Newcastle, won’t be available until after the World Cup, but Callum Wilson, another frontman, should be able to return after falling ill last week.
Right-back ACL damage to Emil Kraft is expected to keep him out for the entire season. Calf strains to Ryan Fraser, Matt Richie, Paul Dummett, and other players will keep them out until after Christmas.
Almost the whole first-choice rearguard for Chelsea is out.
Wesley Fofana, Ben Chilwell, Reece James, and goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga have all been ruled out of the World Cup due to injuries, and defensive midfielder N’Golo Kante has also been unable to make the France team following surgery.
Jorginho, a fellow defensive midfielder, is questionable with a foot issue, and Carney Chukwuemeka, a young player, is out with a hamstring issue.