Soaring Chelsea aiming to scare off Magpies

Posted by Phil Lythell

Cesar Azpilicueta Willian Chelsea celebPA PhotosCesar Azpilicueta and Willian celebrate Chelsea's opening goal at Arsenal.

With Chelsea fans still basking in the joy of beating Arsenal on their own patch in the Capital One Cup and reasserting that there is "only one team in London," the club face another testing fixture away from home this weekend when they make the long journey north to Newcastle.

There is a distinct spring in the Blues' step at present, a product not only of the elimination of a local rival from one of their routes to silverware but also from a consistency that has crept into performances over the past six weeks. The 2-0 victory at the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday was the sixth win in a row in all competitions and ensured that they cruised through the month of October with a 100 percent record. With Manchester City and Schalke also falling victim -- 18 goals scored and only three conceded -- the reaction to the back-to-back defeats to Everton and Basel in the middle of September has been mightily impressive in its ruthlessness.

The hunger and desire that has permeated the squad was evident in the win over the Gunners as there were 10 changes made to the team without resulting in a significant dip in quality. All the players are singing from the same hymn sheet having taken Jose Mourinho's instructions on board and the result has been a series of fluid and confident displays from those who have taken the field.

The main danger that Chelsea face now is themselves. Complacency and overconfidence have undermined many a club's title ambitions and it is no different for the Blues. While the response to the loss at Goodison Park, and the reverse on the opening matchday of the Champions League, might have been excellent, it is equally important that the memories of those days are not forgotten. The football might have got slicker and the confidence might be soaring, yet no team is invincible and Chelsea are far from unbeatable.

The encouraging point is that Mourinho will be fully aware of this. He has been at pains not to appear too disheartened in defeat or triumphal in victory. In keeping his own feet on the ground he is doing the same to his players. Of course he will be building up their morale, but he will not show too much arrogance. Hard work has been his mantra since his return to Stamford Bridge and that applies whether the results on the pitch are good or bad.

Hopefully the players will continue to listen, especially as they face a Newcastle team scalded after losing the Tyne-Wear derby to Sunderland last weekend. The Magpies fans will demand a reaction and their manager Alan Pardew will be communicating to his squad the importance of showing the home crowd a positive reaction to get them fully behind the side once again.

With any luck, that should ensure that Newcastle come out determined to play on the front foot and impose their will on proceedings. The locals demand that their team play high-tempo attacking football in a bid to overwhelm their opponents through the quick transference of the ball into dangerous areas. The upside of that tactic, as far as Chelsea are concerned, is that it should open up plenty of space in the Newcastle half which Eden Hazard, Oscar and the rest can exploit through swift and clinical counterattacks.

Of course, Pardew is unlikely to be quite that naive considering his team have already shipped 16 goals in the Premier League -- the third highest of any in the division -- though with the natives being their usual restless selves he might choose to fight fire with fire. He might also be reminded of last season's encounter in which his team emerged with a 3-2 victory in a pulsating match, periods of which were played at breakneck speed. The galling element of that game was that Chelsea should have won comfortably, having gone 2-1 in front, but for a rare rush of blood from John Terry that precipitated the equaliser. The difference this season is that Terry is back to his best and Mourinho is the manager. If there is any boss who knows how to lock down a lead away from home it is the Special One.

With Chelsea having highlighted the depth of their squad in North London earlier in the week it will be interesting to see how many of those participants will be named in Saturday's starting XI. Juan Mata has clearly pressed his case for inclusion, though he will have a tough job trying to oust the scintillating Oscar, who has been devastating this season. With Hazard virtually guaranteed his place, Andre Schurrle is the only possible candidate for omission, which would be extremely harsh given his goal against City on Sunday and his prodigious work rate -- a commodity relished by his manager.

Mata is likely to begin on the bench once again though John Obi Mikel has done his case no harm with a solid display as a sub last weekend, followed by another steady 90 minutes in midweek. Although Frank Lampard did not feature against Arsenal, Mourinho might see fit to rest him with Wednesday's return match against Schalke in mind and Mikel would be the man to step into his shoes.

However, most attention will be upon the man leading the line: Fernando Torres. After his match-winning display against Man City, the Spaniard's stock has risen immeasurably, not least because it was the latest in a lengthening line of excellent performances. There remains, though, the nagging feeling that one bad day might disrupt his newfound rhythm and it is imperative that he continues to contribute. That does not necessarily mean goals -- he would still have been the man of the match last Sunday even without his late strike -- but it does mean maintaining his energy levels and continuing to make the right decisions at key moments.

A confident and firing Torres, supported by playmakers on their game, with a cohesive defence behind them, should be good enough to bring three points back from the North-East. With Arsenal at home to Liverpool later in the day, it should also be enough (albeit briefly, perhaps) to take Chelsea to the top of the table. And if the hard work continues, it might take a lot to dislodge them.

Follow Phil Lythell on Twitter @PhilLythell


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