Newcastle away. These two simple words are enough to send shivers of fear down the spine of Chelsea fans every single season.
In the past few years, St James’ Park has been a theatre of nightmares for Blues fans – peering down from the clouds high up in the away end, watching their usually proficient side go to pieces against the Toon.
Indeed, Chelsea haven’t picked up a league win at the ground since all the way back in 2011. Crikey.
Even more shockingly, the west Londoners have won just twice in the last ten games when facing the Magpies at St James’, highlighting just how tricky an away tie this is for the west Londoners.
I still remember the horror of watching David Luiz bring down a Newcastle forward who was through on goal within just 20 seconds of the 2013 fixture. Somehow, he avoided a red card.
From last season’s final day 3-0 battering, to the last Moussa Sissoko’s last second winner in 2013’s 3-2 epic, to Papiss Cissé announcing himself with a tasty double to down the Blues 2-1 the following season, the Toon simply love a home tie against Chelsea.
Well, this season things just might be different. With Maurizio Sarri leading the Blues into battle, draped in his trademark armour – what appears to be an oversized nightie salvaged from the Megastore bargain bin – Chelsea can finally storm the fortress and break their St James’ Park hoodoo.
Here’s four reasons why the Blues will make it happen on Sunday afternoon…
4. Chelsea Are Brimming With Confidence Under Maurizio Sarri
With two wins in two so far this season, including a 3-2 victory over Arsenal, Chelsea are already looking a more confident side under their new manager.
While Antonio Conte was beloved by Blues fans, he had clearly lost the faith of the dressing room by the end of his tenure, and Sarri appears to have already won the hearts of his new side.
Playing their attractive brand of football, Chelsea could run rings around the Magpies on Sunday, and will look to boss the midfield with the likes of Jorginho and N’Golo Kanté.
3. It’s the Best Time Possible to Play Newcastle
It’s fair to say that things are looking rather chaotic for Newcastle at the moment.
Owner Mike Ashley sent the club’s fans into another (completely justified) spiral of rage after the transfer window after treating himself to £90m House of Fraser, while failing to invest anything near the amount of money required to strengthen the side.
Manager Rafael Benítez still seems fed up with the state of affairs at the club, and the side have picked up just one point from their opening two games.
With morale at rock bottom, the moment is prime for Chelsea to grab their win.
2. Eden Hazard Is Back & Looking Ready to Cause Some Chaos
We’ve only seen glimpses of Eden Hazard so far this season, but he’s still managed to register two assists during his two cameo appearances.
Having put aside his apparent dreams to move to Real Madrid – for now – the Belgian ace will be looking to give his all for the club this season, and is likely to get his first start of the campaign against the Magpies on Sunday.
In his ten appearances against Newcastle, Hazard has scored six goals and made three assists, and he’s more than likely to add to that tally on this weekend’s clash.
1. Rafael Benítez Doesn’t Have the Best Record Against Chelsea
Here’s a stat for you to repeatedly whisper to yourself before kick-off, as you rock back and forth in the away end: Rafael Benítez has lost more matches against Chelsea then any other team. Boom!
Okay, he has also played the Blues more than any other team (29 times), but he’s emerged victorious on just eight occasions.
Despite leading Chelsea to Europa League success, it was hard to disassociate him from the Liverpool days in which the two sides had a ferocious rivallry, and Blues fans will be eager to get one over on Rafa this weekend.