Picking the Ideal Chelsea XI to Take Down Newcastle

Rowanne Westhenry@@agirlintheshedFeatured ColumnistJanuary 31, 2013

Demba Ba swapped black and white for blue at the beginning of January.
Demba Ba swapped black and white for blue at the beginning of January.Michael Steele/Getty Images

Chelsea travel to Newcastle United having picked up eight points from their last five Premier League matches.

They are currently six points behind second place Manchester City and 13 points off league leaders Manchester United, with a four-point lead on fourth-place Tottenham Hotspur.

Recent performances have offered little in the way of hope, as they have twice let a two-goal lead slip in the second half. Unless they start getting maximum points, Chelsea run a very real risk of failing to qualify for the Champions League next season.

Newcastle aren't faring much better. After an incredible season in 2011-12 which saw them qualify for European football in the Europa League, they have struggled to cope with the burden of extra games and are sitting in 15th place, only eight points clear of bottom club QPR. They have picked up just four points from their last five games and will be looking to improve to avoid falling into the "yo-yo club" trap.

Since the two sides last faced each other back in August, striker Demba Ba has swapped the Magpies for the Blues, and with a squad depleted by injuries, suspensions and the African Cup of Nations, it is high time Rafael Benitez starts the Senegalese star.

Juan Mata and Frank Lampard have both shown signs of exhaustion, but both will need to play if Chelsea want to gain more than a point from this fixture. Whilst this is not an ideal situation, personnel problems across the park could lead Benitez to try out some different formations to best utilise the players he has available.

A 4-1-3-2 would allow Ramires and Oscar to support both Juan Mata and Frank Lampard, while having both Ba and Torres upfront doubles the targets in the box. The only problem is that all of Chelsea's width would come from their full-backs, leaving them exposed on the flank.

The solution to that problem would be to employ a 4-3-2-1 with Marko Marin and either Oscar or Ryan Bertrand out wide.

Whatever lineup Benitez decides to start with, he must be prepared to react a lot quicker in terms of substitutions and in-game tactical changes to ensure the three points that Chelsea need.