Chelsea must beat Newcastle United on Sunday to stand any chance of competing in next season’s UEFA Champions League.
The Blues had the chance to go level on points with Liverpool on Wednesday evening, but were unable to beat relegation-threatened Huddersfield Town at Stamford Bridge, who secured safety with a point against last season’s English Premier League winners.
Antonio Conte’s side’s only route of finishing fourth primarily relies on a game that they cannot control. A win against Newcastle United will only be enough to qualify for Europe’s elite club competition if Liverpool lose at home to Brighton and Hove Albion in their final domestic game of the campaign.
Ahead of the Chelsea’s last league game of the season, we predict how they could line-up against The Magpies.
Predicted line-up (3-5-2): Thibaut Courtois; Cesar Azpilicueta, Gary Cahill, Antonio Rudiger; Victor Moses, N’Golo Kante, Cesc Fabregas, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Marcos Alonso; Olivier Giroud, Eden Hazard
Predicted substitutes: Willy Caballero, Andreas Christensen, Emerson Palmieri, Ross Barkley, Willian, Pedro, Alvaro Morata
After missing Wednesday’s draw with Huddersfield Town with a back injury, Thibaut Courtois may be fit enough to return to The Blues’ starting side in the north east.
Captain Gary Cahill, who has been in fine form over the past month, may earn a recall on Sunday, after losing his spot in the side to Andreas Christensen in midweek. He is likely to play in-between Cesar Azpilicueta and Antonio Rudiger.
Victor Moses was also one of the six changes made by Conte for the Huddersfield Town tie. His recent form prior to that match gave off the feeling that he, alongside Cahill, was being rested for Sunday’s clash, and he should start instead of Davide Zappacosta on Sunday.
The Blues’ disappointments playing 3-4-3 during their last match may see them make a swift return to a 3-5-2 formation. Tiemoue Bakayoko should return to the centre of midfield and partner N’Golo Kante and Cesc Fabregas.
During Chelsea’s 3-0 Emirates FA Cup victory over Rafael Benítez’s side in January, Marcos Alonso floated in a sumptuous free-kick. The Spanish defender will be hoping to recreate that sublime effort when the two sides meet at the weekend.
The three-man attack of Willian, Pedro and Alvaro Morata were unable to break down the resilient defending from Huddersfield Town in midweek, which may have subsequently cost them their places in the starting side. Olivier Giroud could lead the strike partnership, with Eden Hazard playing just behind him.
Chelsea have not lost to Newcastle United in all competitions during their last five meetings. The Magpies have lost their last four matches and Chelsea’s current unbeaten run combined with their urgency of winning may prove to be too much for a Newcastle United side that are lacking confidence.
Score Prediction: Newcastle United 1-2 Chelsea
By Jonty Colman