How do Newcastle United pull off a seismic upset and get a result against Chelsea?
NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 21: Allan Saint-Maximin of Newcastle keeps the ball from Mason Mount of Chelsea and N'Golo Kanté of Chelsea during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Chelsea at St. James Park on November 21, 2020 in Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by MB Media/Getty Images)

It's arguably the toughest possible fixture that Newcastle United could have been handed this weekend as the champions of Europe visit St James' Park, looking to keep their place at the top of the Premier League summit. 

While Chelsea are soaring at top-of-the-table, The Magpies are in disarray, second bottom and without a win in nine league games so far this season. 

The Blues have the best defensive record in the top-flight with just three goals conceded with only one of those arriving on the road in a 1-1 draw against nearest title rivals Liverpool, while Newcastle are the polar opposite and have conceded goals galore, in fact since the start of last season, they have kept just two home Premier League clean sheets - the fewest of any other side. 

Interim caretaker boss Graeme Jones will need to address the defensive vulnerabilities as he takes charge in the dugout for the second week running and will also look for a much-improved performance following the fortunate 1-1 draw against Crystal Palace, as the new owners continue their search to find Steve Bruce's successor.  

In previous head-to-head meetings with Chelsea, The Magpies have lost five of their last six matches with their most recent victory coming in January 2020, when Isaac Hayden's dramatic last-gasp winner at St James' Park gave Newcastle a 1-0 win. 

Despite recent success over The Toon Army on Tyneside, Chelsea have only won six of their past 17 trips in all competitions. This will be Thomas Tuchel's first visit to the North East, though the German manager did enjoy a 2-0 win over Newcastle back in February.  

But with the odds firmly stacked against The Magpies, can Jones outsmart Tuchel, record a famous upset and help kickstart Newcastle's season?   

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  • Tactics

Newcastle averaged only 25% possession at Selhurst Park but only allowed The Eagles to create three shots on target throughout the 90 minutes as the defence appeared to be able to weather the storm after they were aided by wasteful finishing from Palace. 

Though, to their credit, it was certainly a much more resilient defensive display to previous games where they have looked delicate and vulnerable, no matter the opposition they've come across. Without stating the obvious, Newcastle must be switched on with and without the ball when facing the league leaders as there can be no lapses of concentration otherwise if the work-rate isn't to a high standard, they will get punished severely. The prospect of facing a Chelsea side who have scored 23 goals already in the top-flight this season looks daunting and frightening.

The Blues are one of the strongest teams in attacking situations, particularly since the wing-backs have the freedom to advance higher up the pitch and they still show very few weaknesses at the back, showcasing their credentials as early candidates to win the Premier League title.  

If Newcastle are to limit Chelsea's chances, they will have to be a well organised unit, more sophisticated on the ball and not give the possession away cheaply.  Since the visitors will look to control the flow of the game and play with intensity, The Magpies' most deadly tool will be to hit Tuchel's side on the counter-attack and be clinical when opportunities arrive. That's easier said than done.    

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  • Preferred formations 

It's expected that Jones will stick with a 5-3-2 formation as it clearly offers more protection among the backline which they will need against The Blues, who will likely play in their usual 3-4-3 set-up.

Jones may decide to shaken things up in defence and welcome back Fabian Schar, who has not featured for Newcastle since the 2-2 draw against Southampton at the end of August, and the Switzerland international's return to the starting line-up could possibly prove to be the deciding factor in the outcome of the match.    

With Chelsea's trio of Romelu Lukaku, Timo Werner and Christian Pulisic all out injured, Tuchel will look to keep the faith in the same front three who helped thrash Norwich at Stamford Bridge, with hat-trick hero Mason Mount Newcastle's biggest obstacle. 

With another sell-out crowd in store at St James' Park, The Magpies head into the game as huge underdogs and will be hoping lady luck is on their side to help pull off what would be the biggest upset of the season so far.