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Weblog: The football punter

Newcastle troubles to be made worst by Chelsea

Premier League
Sky Sports Premier League, 4pm Sunday


Chelsea have not beaten Newcastle at St James' Park since 2011 but they have shown a fearless attitude since Maurizio Sarri walked through the door and are solid favourites to end their Tyneside troubles.

Newcastle often raise their game for big matches and have been especially successful at home to the Blues, winning four and drawing one of their last five northern encounters.

They hammered Chelsea 3-0 on the final day of last season, removing any slim hopes Antonio Conte had of clinging on to the job.

It gave them a top-half finish and potentially a platform to push on but Newcastle supporters have become wearily accustomed to false dawns and their optimism disappeared after another frustrating summer in the transfer market.

Mike Ashley remains in charge and has shown no sign of loosening the purse strings and handing manager Rafa Benitez the funds needed to lift Newcastle closer to the top clubs.

Instead of looking up the table, there is every chance of an ordinary Newcastle squad slipping into relegation trouble.

Benitez looks their best insurance policy against the drop and while he remains Newcastle are likely to be well organised and difficult to beat.

They gave a decent account of themselves in a 2-1 loss to Tottenham, although it should be noted that Spurs had nine players involved in the World Cup semi-finals and were nothing like their usual slick selves.

A better barometer of Newcastle came a week later when they laboured to a dismal 0-0 draw at Cardiff.

Three points would have been secured had Kenedy showed more composure from the penalty spot but it was a poor performance from the Magpies, who posed little threat from open play.

They may find it easier to score against a Chelsea team who play a risky style of football.

Sarri's side maintained their 100 per cent record by beating Arsenal 3-2 at Stamford Bridge last Sunday but they could have been sunk by the break had the Gunners showed a little more composure in front of goal.

Chelsea's back four received little protection and they were  vulnerable to counter-attacks whenever Arsenal won the ball high up the pitch.

Benitez will have taken note but even if Newcastle find the net it may not be enough for them to secure any points.

The upside of Chelsea's style is how dangerous they look going forward.

Even before the introduction of star man Eden Hazard they had created numerous chances.

This time the mercurial Belgian is likely to start and he should enjoy himself as part of a team playing with much more freedom than last term.

Chelsea under Sarri are sure to be exciting to watch and, in the short term, the markets haven't quite caught up.

The Blues are odds-on to be victorious but far more attractively priced to be win the game while conceding a goal.

Punters should take the larger price and sit back and enjoy the thrills and spills.

Recommendation
Chelsea to win and both teams to score

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Match in Focus

19:00 TODAY SKY

Albania v Wales

Home WinDrawAway Win
Key stats
  • Albania have scored twice in their last eight matches
Expert verdict
Wales will be down in the dumps after failing to top their Nations League group following a home defeat to Denmark on Friday, although they take a serious drop in grade against an Albanian side, who not only played 24 hours later so are more fatigued but also did so with ten men for 70 minutes of the 4-0 loss to Scotland.