Newcastle United host Chelsea at St James' Park Saturday, the first of a miniature two-game stretch against Top 4 teams. This match, along with next week's tie at White Hart Lane, will test Newcastle's ability to stay above the relegation fray. If they can play the next 180 minutes like they played the first 45 at Villa Park mid-week, they have a chance to gain some points. If their form is anything like the last 45, we might as well mark it zero and move on.
The big story will undoubtedly be Demba Ba's return to the North East after Chelsea activated his release clause in early January. I've never been more certain that an opposing player will score at least 2 goals in my life. Luckily for the Toon, the Blues will be without the services of Eden Hazard, who is still serving a suspension for kicking a ball boy at Swansea City. Meanwhile, Alan Pardew will be buoyed by the return of Sylvain Marveaux. It seems that Jonas Gutierrez' name is written in permanent marker on Pardew's white board, so we can reasonably expect Marveaux to feature on the bench.
NUFC: Krul | Debuchy, Saylor, Coloccini ©, Santon | Perch, Cabaye | Gouffran, Sissoko, Jonas | Cisse
Subs: Elliot, Yanga-Mbiwa, Bigirimana, Anita, Marveaux, Obertan, Shola
CFC: Cech | Ivan, Cahill, JT ©, Cole | Ram, Lamps | Oscar, Mata, Bert | Ba
Subs: Turn, Fer, Azpili, Ake, Benayoun, Marin, Torres