Thomas Tuchel recognises facing Newcastle United now is a different prospect from what it was a few weeks ago, but he believes Chelsea are up to the task.
Reigning European champions and Premier League leaders Chelsea head to St James’ Park on Saturday to take on a Newcastle team buoyed by their lucrative recent takeover.
The Magpies might still be in relegation trouble, waiting on a first win of the season and needing to turn their fortunes around to survive, but they will be backed again by an excited Tyneside crowd.
Although Tuchel acknowledges that brings its challenges, Chelsea are still favourites and have made the most of favourable fixtures of late, crushing Norwich City 7-0 last week.
“Things have changed for them, obviously, maybe changed within the dressing room, the spirit within the club, the belief of the city, the belief of the supporters with what’s coming,” Tuchel said. “Maybe that affects the atmosphere in the stadium for them and of course for us. But we experience right now that there is a huge value to play against us, and we have come out of these matches as so-called favourites.
“I liked a lot how we approached these matches with intensity and effort.”
Graeme Jones, Newcastle’s interim coach, may be taking charge of his boyhood club for the last time, having only initially been appointed for two matches. But no permanent coach has yet been brought in, meaning Jones is waiting on the word of the new ownership.
“They will let me know what the plan is going forward,” he said. “I’m ready for everything. I’m ready both ways, so we’ll have to wait and see. It’s in their hands – not mine.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Newcastle United – Martin Dubravka
Dubravka may not immediately play, with Karl Darlow far from Newcastle’s worst performer this season, but he is fit again and surely will not be on the sidelines for long. Given the position Newcastle are in, Jones could be tempted to throw his number one straight back in.
Chelsea – Mason Mount
Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner remain out, meaning Tuchel needs others to step up. Mount certainly did that with a hat-trick against Norwich – a platform he will hope to build on at St James’ Park.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Newcastle have lost five of their past six Premier League meetings with Chelsea, winning the other 1-0 in January 2020.
– Chelsea have won two of their last three Premier League away games against Newcastle (L1), more than they had in their previous seven visits to St James’ Park (W1 D2 L4).
– Since the start of last season, Newcastle have conceded more home league goals (43) and kept fewer home league clean sheets (two) than any other ever-present Premier League side over the two campaigns. The Magpies are yet to keep a league clean sheet at St James’ Park this season.
– Newcastle are without a win in their nine league games so far this season. Only twice in their history have the Magpies failed to win any of their opening 10 games to a league campaign, though they avoided relegation at the end of the season both times (1898-99 and 2018-19).
– Chelsea are looking to win four consecutive Premier League matches under Tuchel for the second time. They previously did so in February, with the fourth game in that run coming against Newcastle.