Chelsea can bounce back from the disappointment of defeat in one cup competition in midweek by successfully progressing to the next round of another with victory over Newcastle in the fourth round of the FA Cup on Sunday (8:30am ET).
After falling to defeat to Arsenal in the final of last year’s FA Cup, Chelsea again lost out to their London rivals on Wednesday in the second leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final. Eden Hazard gave them an early lead, but an own goal from Antonio Rudiger swiftly levelled the scores before Granit Xhaka fired home on the hour mark to consign them to a 1-2 defeat.
It was a disappointing result and one that confirmed Arsenal as something of a bogey club for coach Antonio Conte, who has now only beaten them once in eight attempts since joining Chelsea in the summer of 2016. Indeed, he will be glad the Gunners’ participation in this year’s FA Cup ended in the third round.
Conte has been heavily backed by Chelsea in the transfer market this month. Ross Barkley has already arrived from Everton, while a double deal for Roma’s full-back Emerson and former Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko also seems close to completion. With three competitions still to play for, he felt that further reinforcements were required.
However, with a successful defence of their league title already realistically out of reach and a difficult Champions League last-16 encounter with Barcelona to come next month, their Carabao Cup elimination now means that the FA Cup represents Chelsea’s most realistic chance of silverware this season.
Chelsea always seem to perform well in knockout competitions. Over the last 10 years, they have won the Champions League, the Europa League, three FA Cups and one League Cup, in addition to reaching a further three finals. Conte, though, has actually never won a knockout competition in his career as a head coach – a strange record given his haul of three league titles with Juventus and last season’s Premier League title with Chelsea.
Conte’s record contrasts sharply with that of Rafael Benitez, his opposite number on Sunday. The Spaniard has won six major cup competitions during his career to date, including a Europa League success with Chelsea in 2013. His meticulous pre-match planning and largely counter-attacking approach tend to produce good results in one-off encounters.
It is, however, unlikely that this year’s FA Cup will provide him with another winners medal. It would be understandable if Newcastle’s priorities were focused elsewhere. After a promising start to the season, a run of eight defeats in nine matches from the end of October to mid-December saw them drop down towards the lower reaches of the table, and two wins, two draws and two defeats since still have them just a point clear of the bottom three.
Benitez has consistently made clear the need for reinforcements during the January transfer window. So far, the only arrival has been Kenedy, on loan from Chelsea. Reports do, though, suggest that owner Mike Ashley is willing to break the club’s transfer record to bring in a new striker. If that comes to fruition, the new man would need to hit the ground running.
Newcastle have scored less than a goal per match to date, and while that isn’t a rarity among the teams collected towards the bottom of the table – many of whom are similarly searching for new attacking options this month – it certainly isn’t a help in picking up points. Eight of the club’s 13 league defeats so far this season have been by a single goal, with seven of those coming in matches in which Newcastle failed to score.
It is that lack of firepower that will make it difficult for Newcastle to get a result this weekend. Benitez is sure to come up with a solid game-plan and may succeed in keeping the match relatively tight, but anything more than that is unlikely.
Chelsea triumphed 3-1 when the sides met at Stamford Bridge in the league earlier this season and have won each of the last five home matches against Sunday’s opponents. Conte will probably choose to rest some of his regular starters, but Chelsea still have enough quality in their squad to emerge victorious and progress to the fifth round.
Our Preview’s Chelsea vs Newcastle Betting Picks & Predictions Verdict
For the Chelsea vs Newcastle predictions, our suggestion for a wager on this English FA Cup soccer match with one of the United States’ sportsbooks is as follows:
- Bet on Chelsea -1 goal @ +123 with Intertops.