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Monday, 17 December, 2018

Chelsea should edge crucial FA Cup tie

Cautious Rafa Benitez can tighten up Newcastle

Willy Caballero saves Nelson Oliveira's penalty in Chelsea's shootout win over Norwich
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FA Cup fourth round
BT Sport 2, 1.30pm Sunday

Newcastle have won seven league and cup matches this season, but none against a top-half Premier League team, and that doesn’t augur well for their trip to face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

The Magpies’ record against the top flight’s big six reads played seven, lost six, with one draw, a 1-1 stalemate at home to Liverpool.

Their trips to the two Manchester clubs, Chelsea and Arsenal have yielded four losses with a goal difference of minus eight.

The 3-1 defeat at Chelsea in December was, of course, against a full-strength Blues side which Newcastle won’t be bumping into today.

Even though Antonio Conte’s men were knocked out of the League Cup by Arsenal on Wednesday, the Italian has already said he’ll tweak his team as he continues to focus on a top-four finish.

Rafa Benitez, in contrast, fielded a strong side against Luton in round three of this competition, making just four changes.

But with the Toon chief involved in a relegation scrap – Newcastle are 15th, just a point above the bottom three – surely he has to prioritise Wednesday’s showdown with Burnley. And Rafa was a master of rotating his squad for cup ties in his Liverpool days.

Chelsea were hugely unimpressive in their two tussles with Norwich in the third round, while Newcastle under Benitez are ultra-cautious against the big guns.

They’ve played Manchester City twice in the league and been beaten only 1-0 and 3-1 so you could argue that a negative approach has spared them some truly humiliating defeats.

From the perspective of this match, it might well mean a frustrating afternoon for everyone involved and backing under 2.5 goals at odds-against is one to consider.

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Chelsea’s four domestic cup ties in January have produced the grand total of five goals and if the Geordies are as disciplined as they usually are in this type of fixture, they can definitely avoid a hiding.

Seven of Chelsea’s last ten matches have produced no more than two goals while six of Newcastle’s last nine have done likewise.

Chelsea to win is the obvious match bet. They’ve won five in a row at home to Newcastle and were unbeaten in 12 prior to the 2-1 midweek reverse at the Emirates. Eden Hazard is in a different league to most at the moment.

Given the logic of not many goals and Chelsea eventually getting over the line, a Blues victory and under 3.5 goals at 13-10 looks the wisest call.

Much will depend on Newcastle’s team selection rather than their approach, which is bound to be dour. However, this is a match that Chelsea will feel they have to win and they can deliver.

Chelsea to win & under 3.5 goals
1pt 13-10 Betfair, Paddy Power

Premier League standings

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Team news
Thibaut Courtois, Willian and Alvaro Morata are out. Cesc Fabregas is a doubt.

Kenedy, signed on loan from Chelsea this week, is not eligible to play.

Key stat
Chelsea have kept seven clean sheets in their last ten matches in all competitions.

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Chelsea were hugely unimpressive in two tussles with Norwich in the third round but Newcastle under Benitez are ultra-cautious against the big guns
E.W. Terms
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