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Newcastle vs. Chelsea: Team News and Preview

What will Rafa Benitez do this time around?

Jamie McDonald

Rafa Benitez's reign at Chelsea has been an adventure, to put it nicely, and after giving away a two-goal led to Reading in the final minutes, the spotlight is squarely on the manager. At this point, Benitez will bear the brunt of the blame for any dropped points, fairly or not.

Luckily for him, Newcastle are short-handed in the midfield this weekend. Hatem Ben Arfa is out trough injury and Cheick Tiote is still with the Ivory Coast at the Africa Cup of Nations, creating provlems in the center for the Magpies. That's good news for Chelsea, who let another transfer window pass without the midfielder they so desperately need and could have been ont he back foot at St. James' Park against a full-strength Newcastle side.

Newcastle should see Moussa Sissoko, Yoan Gouffran and Mathieu Debuchy in their starting XI, continuing the French takeover at St. James' Park that the club are plenty proud of. French flags adorned the walls at the training ground this week and the club have begun to sell berets as they welcome their new signings to the cold, gray north.

If all goes well for Newcastle, Chelsea will find things plenty cold and gray on Saturday as they slide closer and closer down the table where the battle for fourth is awaiting them.

Newcastle injuries and suspensions

Out: Hatem Ben Arfa (hamstring), Cheick Tiote (Africa Cup of Nations)

Chelsea injuries and suspensions

Out: Petr Cech (calf)