Newcastle v Chelsea preview
Another sensational chapter in an eventful season for Newcastle United will unfold on Saturday when Chelsea provide the opposition in Alan Shearer's first game as manager at St James' Park. To say the Magpies have served up a couple of unexpected stories since last August would be a slight understatement but - in comparison with a lot of Tyneside tales, and apart from the timing - Shearer's arrival had an air of predictability. On Wednesday, Toon Army legend Shearer was confirmed as an eight-game stand-in for Joe Kinnear, who is recovering from heart surgery having surprisingly replaced Geordie Messiah Kevin Keegan earlier in the campaign, and his task is to save his hometown club from relegation. Newcastle sit in the Premier League drop zone following a miserable term and it is hoped that the presence of former captain Shearer, the top scorer in the club's history who was always considered an eventual manager, will act as a survival stimulant. Title-chasing Chelsea, though, will be hoping to spoil the party as they prepare to face what is certain to be a 52,000 sell-out and a boisterous St James' Park, which will be missing former executive director of football Dennis Wise. The third-placed Blues are themselves under the stewardship of a temporary boss, Guus Hiddink, and they have yet to give up hope of landing league silverware as they continue to chase Liverpool and defending champions Manchester United. Chelsea have acknowledged their task has become all the more difficult following the arrival of 'Mr Newcastle' but the men from West London are also past masters at raining on parades, having travelled to Manchester City last September to record a 3-1 win following the British-record arrival of Robinho at Eastlands. Shearer, who has named former Crystal Palace, Charlton, QPR and Coventry boss Iain Dowie as his assistant, is well aware he is facing a tough mission, but the job has become all the more testing due to a number of injury problems. Midfielders Joey Barton and Nacho Gonzalez, defender Tamas Kadar, and forwards Mark Viduka and Xisco are all nursing fitness concerns, leaving Shearer with decisions to make as he looks to build confidence. Striker Michael Owen, a close friend of his new manager from their playing days with England, is fresh from an international snub and is guaranteed to start if fit, while central midfielder Danny Guthrie (hamstring) is ready to make his first appearance since the mid-January defeat at Blackburn. Chelsea will be desperate to bounce back from defeat to London rivals Tottenham in their last game before the break for World Cup qualifying action. Hopes are high that full-back Jose Bosingwa will be fit after collecting a gashed leg with Portugal, while compatriots Deco and Ricardo Carvalho both joined in with light training on Thursday. Striker Nicolas Anelka, struggling with a bruised toe which forced him to pull out of the France squad, has trained but is expected to miss out. Possible starting XI's: Newcastle: Harper, Taylor, Coloccini, Bassong, Enrique, Nolan, Butt, Smith, Gutierrez, Owen, Martins. Chelsea: Cech, Bosingwa, Terry, Carvalho, Ashley Cole, Essien, Lampard, Ballack, Mikel, Malouda, Drogba.
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