In-form Chelsea host an injury-hit Newcastle on Monday night, and Mike Norman believes Thomas Tuchel's improving side will record a comfortable victory...
"Newcastle have failed to score a single goal in six of their last seven away matches..."
Chelsea v Newcastle
Monday 15 February, 20:00
Live on Sky Sports
Decent start but still no signs of knowing best XI
It's been a solid, rather than spectacular, start to Thomas Tuchel's reign as Chelsea boss following the sacking of Frank Lampard three weeks ago.
A home draw against Wolves can certainly be excused given that the former Borussia Dortmund and Paris-SG manager was only confirmed in the Stamford Bridge hot seat just 24 hours earlier, but four consecutive victories since then have undoubtedly provided the 47-year-old with a foundation from which to build on.
But performance wise it's hardly been an eye-catching start. Narrow wins over Burnley, a very negative Tottenham side, rock-bottom Sheffield United, and Championship outfit Barnsley in which the Blues managed just one shot on target, is hardly the stuff dreams are made of.
It's early days for Tuchel of course, but if there was one criticism labelled at Lampard more than any other then it was him not being able to to settle on a regular starting XI.
Yet in Tuchel's five games so far he's made an astonishing 28 changes!
Admittedly rotation is expected from cup games to league games and vice versa, but Tuchel has already started matches with Olivier Giroud, Tammy Abraham and Timo Werner each playing as a lone striker, Kai Havertz in for a league game then out, Mason Mount out then in, Ben Chilwell in then out, and similar rotation for the likes of Reece James, Hakim Ziyech and Christian Pulisic. I think you get the picture.
Callum Hudson-Odoi appears to be the attacking player Tuchel likes most, while it's becoming more obvious that Mount is the man that makes this Chelsea team tick. Expect both to start against Newcastle, along with Werner, in a line-up that will probably become more settled as the German learns more about his players.
Recent improvement overshadowed by key injuries
In one of the most unpredictable Premier League seasons for a long time it's quite ironic that Newcastle couldn't win a game of football for toffee, until they played the Toffees.
Steve Bruce's men ended an 11-game winless run - that included nine defeats and just five goals scored - with a shock 2-0 win at highflying Everton a fortnight ago and they've since defeated Southampton 3-2 despite playing large parts of the game with just nine men because of injuries and a dismissal.
Newcastle go into Monday night's game at Stamford Bridge having scored six goals in their last three games, secured six points, and moved 10 points clear of the relegation zone. And with Allan Saint-Maximin back to full fitness and exciting prospect Joe Willock - on loan from Arsenal - already among the goals, then you'd be forgiven for thinking it's all smiles on Tyneside. Think again.
Bruce was dealt a triple injury blow this week with the news that the three players who had to go off injured during the win over the Saints - defenders Javier Manquillo and Fabian Schar, plus leading goalscorer Callum Wilson - have all been ruled out for at least six weeks.
Newcastle were already struggling defensively with the absence of Federico Fernandez and Jamaal Lascelles, and those two face late fitness tests ahead of the trip to London with both rated as having a 50/50 chance of playing. To add to Bruce's woes, Jeff Hendrick is missing through suspension.
Home side very worthy favourites
For all that I've said that Chelsea haven't really impressed under Tuchel so far I firmly believe that they're getting there, and it's impossible to knock four straight victories, regardless of the winning margin or opposition.
The Blues will be back to full strength for the visit of Newcastle which will probably mean Mateo Kovacic in midfield alongside Jorginho, and very likely Mount, Hudson-Odoi, Werner, and one other in attack. Kovacic in particular has impressed under Tuchel, dictating Chelsea's tempo as well as being key to his side not conceding to an opposition player.
When you consider the ability of both teams, and the likely line-ups given Newcastle's injury crisis, then you don't need me to tell you that Chelsea are very worthy favourites at 1.261/4.
Bruce's men can be backed at 15.014/1 with the Draw at 7.06/1.
Blues to win without conceding
Chelsea's short Match Odds dictate that Over 2.5 Goals is also odds-on here, but it's worth pointing out that in Tuchel's five games in charge the Blues have scored 0-2-1-2-1 goals, and only one of those games had more than two goals in the match.
So unless you fancy Newcastle to get on the scoresheet - and I don't - then it's hard to make a convincing cases for Over 2.5 Goals landing at just 1.684/6, though there is also the feeling that everything could click at anytime and they could easily win by three or four here. It's not a market that I'm interested in.
I am however interested in backing the home side to win without conceding. As alluded to when mentioning Kovacic, Chelsea are yet to concede a goal to an opposing player under Tuchel, his five games in charge ending (Chelsea's scores first) 0-0, 2-0, 1-0, 2-1 and 1-0; the one goal conceded being an Antonio Rudiger own goal when under no pressure at all.
Newcastle have failed to score a single goal in six of their last seven away matches, and the game in which they did find the back of the net - the 2-0 win at Everton - Callum Wilson scored both. With the Magpies' leading striker absent on Monday night I'm happy to back a Chelsea Win to Nil at 1.910/11.
Put your faith in Jorginho to score again
I've listed a selection of Chelsea players below to consider if having a punt in the First Goalscoer or Anytime Scorer markets is your preferred way of wagering.
|Player||First Goal & Anytime Scorer Odds|
|Tammy Abraham||3/1 FGS - 5/6 Anytime|
|Timo Werner||10/3 FGS - 10/11 Anytime|
|Mason Mount||8/1 FGS - 11/4 Anytime|
|Jorginho||9/1 FGS - 3/1 Anytime|
Of course, waiting for the confirmed line-ups before making a selection is advisable, and if he starts then Tammy Abraham - seven goals in his last nine games - has to be a worthy favourite given that he'd play as a lone striker.
It's hard to have any confident in Werner getting on the scoresheet when you consider that, quite incredibly, he's scored just one goal in his last 19 appearances for Chelsea, that coming in a home FA Cup win over League Two outfit Morecambe.
I like the look of Jorginho at 3/1 to get on the scoresheet at anytime as even if Werner starts he will be on penalty duty after converting twice in his last two games from a spot kick.
With Chelsea expected to be on the front foot and dominate possession then there's every chance they'll win another penalty, but even if they don't Jorginho is more than capable of scoring from long range or bursting into the box to finish an attack.