Chelsea travel to St James’ Park to face the Premier League’s in-form side Newcastle on Saturday evening.
Graham Potter made an unbeaten start to life in SW6 but has lost consecutive Premier League matches ahead of the trip north. During his brief but successful Chelsea tenure, Thomas Tuchel never lost back-to-back top-flight games.
Here’s the XI Potter may deploy to ensure he doesn’t become the first Chelsea manager to lose three consecutive Premier League matches since Jose Mourinho in 2015.
GK: Edouard Mendy – Senegal’s number one hasn’t kept a clean sheet in any club competition since the opening day of the season.
CB: Trevoh Chalobah – Usually the respite for under-pressure managers, Chalobah fell upon the cliche of calling Saturday’s away trip to Newcastle a “final”.
CB: Thiago Silva – Before he caught the football bug, Silva’s passion was flying kites.
CB: Kalidou Koulibaly – As a kid, Koulibaly’s French neighbourhood in Saint-Die would divide teams for a kickabout based on their parents’ heritage. “We would play Senegal v Turkey, Senegal v Morocco,” he remembered. Koulibaly is now a continental champion with a nation he has been representing, in one form or another, for decades.
RWB: Ruben Loftus-Cheek – “I’m quite versatile,” Loftus-Cheek recently asserted, “if I need to change position or tweak a position, I am comfortable with it.” Which is mighty fortunate under a manager that tinkers as much as Potter.
CM: Denis Zakaria – The Swiss international is being tentatively eased into Chelsea’s setup but still hasn’t made his Premier League debut.
CM: Mateo Kovacic – Since the start of last season, Chelsea have won 70% of the Premier League matches Kovacic has started compared to just 42% in his absence.
LWB: Marc Cucurella – It has gone overlooked given the dehumanised view the public has of footballers, but Cucurella lost a considerable amount of weight in a short time while nursing an illness earlier this season which can’t have been easy to swiftly get over.
RW: Raheem Sterling – Chelsea’s £50m summer acquisition hasn’t scored in the Premier League since August.
ST: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – The former Arsenal forward has had a hand in more goals (nine) against Newcastle than any other English side in his career.
LW: Mason Mount – Regardless of the manager, Mount hasn’t been left out of a Chelsea match since May – a run he is expected to extend this weekend.