Chelsea manager Frank Lampard will be without Christian Pulisic and Kai Havertz for the trip to Newcastle this weekend while Thiago Silva is expected to be rested after a late return from international duty, meaning the Blues boss could line up much the same as he did against Sheffield United two weeks ago.
In Chelsea’s final match pre-international break, they hammered Sheffield United 4-1 at Stamford Bridge despite initially going a goal behind.
Timo Werner, Tammy Abraham, Ben Chilwell and Silva all scored against the Blades as the home side moved within three points of table-topping Leicester after eight games.
But the Brazil centre-back is unlikely to keep his spot in the starting line-up against Newcastle because he will only return from international duty today.
The 36-year-old played 90 minutes of Brazil’s win over Uruguay in World Cup qualifying and Lampard has been managing his fitness carefully.
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As he did at Krasnodar, Antonio Rudiger could come in on the left-hand side of Kurt Zouma at the back.
At left-back, Chelsea were sweating on Ben Chilwell’s fitness earlier this week after he was forced off in England’s Nations League loss to Belgium with a back issue.
But the Blues are said to be optimistic their summer signing will be fit enough to start against the Magpies at St James’ Park this Saturday (12.30pm kick-off).
Chilwell trained with his Three Lions team-mates on Wednesday and should keep his spot over Emerson Palmieri, who could instead get minutes in the Champions League in midweek with Chelsea having one foot in the knockout rounds of the tournament already.
In fine form, right-back Reece James should start over Cesar Azpilicueta while Edouard Mendy will retain his spot in goal after a brilliant start to life at Chelsea.
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Kai Havertz’s continued absence – the attacking midfielder building his way back up to full fitness after recovering from coronavirus – means the same midfield could be picked from the win over Sheffield United.
That would see N’Golo Kante at the base of a three-man midfield with Mason Mount to the left and Mateo Kovacic to the right.
Havertz had started over Kovacic for the win over Burnley in their previous league match but the Croatian is a solid deputy for the German, who no longer has COVID-19 and is back in training but has done little training while off sick.
Chelsea do not want to take risks with the attacker given they face a schedule of 13 matches in the next 43 days and will need to count upon Havertz throughout the hectic festive period.
Ahead of the midfield, the front three that disposed of Burnley, Rennes and Sheffield United could also stay unchanged.
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Tammy Abraham has two goals and two assists in his past three appearances in the league and in Europe and should keep his spot as the team’s central striker.
To the left, Timo Werner – who has eight goals in 12 Chelsea appearances – should start over Callum Hudson-Odoi, who will be keen for minutes off the bench with Havertz and Pulisic out.
The American suffered an injury in the warm-up at Burnley and could face another two weeks out injured.
Chelsea do not want to risk 22-year-old Pulisic’s hamstring strain and should be able to cope in his absence with Werner impressing off of the left.
On the opposite flank, Hakim Ziyech has been sublime for Lampard since breaking into the team post-injury and will be the visitors’ creator-in-chief in the north east.
Newcastle are likely to be reserved given Chelsea’s firepower but Ziyech has more than enough quality to pick holes in the back-line to serve Abraham and Werner.
Lampard will then have the likes of Hudson-Odoi and Olivier Giroud in reserve up top, while the likes of Jorginho and Emerson are options to offer key players rest ahead of the trip to France on Tuesday.
Possible Chelsea XI vs Newcastle: Mendy; James, Zouma, Rudiger, Chilwell; Kante, Kovacic, Mount; Ziyech, Abraham, Werner.
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