Chelsea-Newcastle United Preview

RYAN WILLOX (STATS Football Writer)
The Associated Press

Chelsea visit Newcastle United in Saturday's early kick-off seeking the win that would put them in pole position atop the Premier League.

A victory guarantees the Blues top spot but they will be hoping a slip up by leaders Arsenal against third-placed Liverpool allows them to stay there longer than the five hours between the conclusion of their game and the late match.

There have been ominous signs of versatility and resilience from Jose Mourinho's side recently, who enter the match two points behind Arsenal.Chelsea (6-2-1) have ten different goalscorers this season, more than any other Premier League side and have scored a league-high six times in the final 15 minutes of matches this season.

The Stamford Bridge outfit are on a six-match winning streak in all competitions and only Basel and Bayern Munich in European games have scored more than once against them this campaign.

Emblematic of Chelsea's success this season is Cesar Azpilicueta, who has played less than half an hour in the league but chipped in with a critical opportunist opening goal after starting the 2-0 midweek League Cup win over Arsenal.

"The season is long and the most important thing is to keep working," the Spaniard told Chelsea's website. "We have a really good squad, every player can play and give 100 per cent, and we need to keep fighting for titles because we want to arrive at the end of the season with options to win every trophy.

"It's true that I'm not playing a lot of games but I feel really comfortable with the team and with the manager so I am happy with the work that I am doing."

The defender also towed the party line on upcoming fixtures, insisting Chelsea can't look for favours from their title rivals.

"It's true that Arsenal have two really difficult games (Liverpool, Manchester United) but we don't need to look to the other teams," he said. "We play in a difficult stadium in Newcastle and we know it's always a hard game there. This league is really competitive and every game is difficult. We just have to keep working and improving in every game. We are growing up as a team and that is the most important thing."

Newcastle (3-2-4) enter the match following a disappointing derby loss to Sunderland and having been eliminated from the League Cup in extra time by Manchester City in midweek.

There is cause for optimism for manager Alan Pardew as his side have won two of their last three against Saturday's opponents, having won just three of the previous 21 encounters.

Pardew thinks his shot-shy striker Papiss Cisse can use the example of Chelsea forward Fernando Torres as his inspiration to lead the Magpies out of their current slump, despite missing a pivotal chance in that League Cup loss.

"I think it affected Papiss, that particular chance," Pardew told the official Newcastle website. "He always gives everything for us but that seemed to hurt him, that he didn't take that chance. He wasn't quite the same after that.

"But that's what it's like for strikers and he's got to keep going. And if there's ever an example of coming out of this spell, it's Torres who's suddenly come alive. We've got to hope that happens for Papiss."

Each side won their home match last season, with the Magpies coming from behind to shock Chelsea 3-2 at St. James' Park. Jonas Gutierrez put Newcastle up just before halftime, but Frank Lampard and Juan Mata scored six minutes apart early in the second to put Chelsea seemingly in control. Moussa Sissoko leveled and then won it with a goal in the 90th minute.

Chelsea defeated the Magpies at Stamford Bridge as Eden Hazard scored a first half penalty then set up Torres in first half stoppage time to ease the Blues to a 2-0 win.

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