Newcastle are paying for some serious ill-discipline as they will be missing both first-choice central defenders - Fabricio Collocini and Mike Williamson - who are both serving three-match suspensions following misdemeanours against Bolton last weekend.
Joey Barton will be continuing his suspension for his assault on Morten Gamst Pedersen two weeks ago. Cheik Tiote, however, is back from his ban and is very likely to come back into the team.
It could well be Sol Campbell and Steven Taylor who come in at the back, both to make their first league starts of the season.
Newcastle’s long-term injuries continue in the form of Dan Gosling, Hatem Ben Arfa, Steve Harper and Ryan Taylor.
Probable starting XI: Krul; Simpson, Campbell, Taylor, Jose Enrique; Routledge, Tiote, Nolan, Gutierrez; Carroll, Ameobi.
Chelsea’s key long-term injuries continue to plague them as well as John Terry, Frank Lampard and Yossi Benayoun remain sidelined.
Yuri Zhirkov has joined them in the treatment room and is very unlikely to play, whilst influential midfielder Michael Essien remains suspended.
Alex is available now for the Blues though, which will give their defence a more recognisable structure.
Probable starting XI: Cech; Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Alex, Cole; Ramires, Mikel, Malouda; Kalou, Anelka, Drogba.
Chelsea need points to hold on to top-spot
With Manchester United and Arsenal both playing a day before Chelsea, it is likely that the Blues will be off the top for the first time in months by the start of this clash, and they are likely to need a win to regain their position as league leaders; defeat could see them crash to third. Having lost their last two Premier League games, a third would really be seen as a crisis at Stamford Bridge as they have not suffered three straight league defeats for eleven years.
Newcastle have been free scorers at home so far this season with fifteen goals from seven games, however this has only yielded two wins, and manager Chris Hughton will be desperate to improve their record at St. James’ Park. With a win and other results going their way, the Magpies could rise to seventh in the table, cementing their impressive return to the Premier League.
Unstoppable force meets the immovable object
As mentioned, Newcastle have had no problem scoring goals at home this season, and when the two teams met at Stamford Bridge earlier this year in the Carling Cup, the Magpies scored four and eliminated Chelsea from the competition.
However, in their last six Premier League meetings, Newcastle have mustered only one goal, which will temper their optimism somewhat. One of these contrasting records will have to be reinforced, but it’s hard to say which one is more likely with the inconsistent form both teams are showing.
The absence of their regular central defenders may cause the Toon to embellish their unwanted records of conceding the most penalties so far this season (five), and receiving the most yellow cards (31).