Newcastle United host an in-form Chelsea side in the first Premier League game after November's international break at Saturday lunchtime.
In a worryingly familiar trend, the injuries are mounting for Steve Bruce's Magpies just as the season nears the famously congested festive schedule. Having returned to the dreaded and dreary five-man back line, results have been mixed for Newcastle - something which cannot be said for their weekend opponents.
Talk of Frank Lampard's expensively assembled side finally 'clicking' has been rife after four consecutive wins. But if any fixture can put a swift halt to a promising run of form, an away trip to St James' Park may prove to be just that - the west Londoners have lost five of their last seven trips to Tyneside.
Where to Watch
When Is Kick Off? Saturday 21 November
What Time Is Kick Off? 12:30 (GMT)
Where It it Played? St James' Park
TV Channel/Live Stream? BT Sport 1 (UK), Peacock (US)
Referee? Craig Pawson
At a similar time of year last season, Bruce promised to investigate the spate of soft tissue injuries plaguing his squad. Nearly 12 months on, and with the schedule even more densely stacked, fitness woes are still a nagging concern for Newcastle. Bruce was able to provide positive news on the status of Jonjo Shelvey, Martin Dubravka and Dwight Gayle although Saturday's match may very well come too soon for the trio.
Paul Dummett's latest setback saw him join Ryan Fraser and Matt Ritchie as long-term absentees. However, the potential loss of top scorer Callum Wilson is the most significant concern, as the club wait to learn the full extent of his injury.
Chelsea, who usually boast squad depth many in the division can only envy, do have their own problems. The Blues will miss an injured Christian Pulisic and Kai Havertz after a positive COVID-19 test earlier this month means his fitness will be lacking. Thiago Silva is also unlikely to feature with the defender only returning from Brazil duty on Thursday.
Left-back Ben Chilwell looked like a doubt after hobbling off during England's clash with Belgium last weekend but returned to training ahead of Wednesday's meeting with Iceland, a match he didn't feature in.
Newcastle: Darlow; Murphy, Schar, Lascelles, Fernandez, Lewis; Longstaff, Hendrick, Almiron; Saint-Maximin, Joelinton
Chelsea: Mendy; James, Zouma, Christensen, Chilwell; Jorginho, Kante, Mount; Ziyech, Abraham, Werner
Newcastle go into Saturday's match sitting 13th in the table, the same position in which they finished the previous campaign and a standing they might not be too far away from come the conclusion of the current term.
In these premature stages of the season, the Magpies have been brought sharply back down to earth each time they looked to have turned a corner. Outside their exploits in the Carabao Cup, goals have again been an issue for Newcastle - only two teams in the top flight have fewer than their six non-penalty goals this season.
Chelsea, on the other hand, top this particular category with 17 not from the spot and have even tightened up their previously leaky back line, conceding just one goal in their last six outings across all competitions.
Here's how each team has fared in their previous five matches.
Southampton 2-0 Newcastle (6/11)
Newcastle 2-1 Everton (1/11)
Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-1 Newcastle (25/10)
Newcastle 1-4 Manchester United (17/10)
Newcastle 3-1 Burnley (3/10)
Chelsea 4-1 Sheffield United (7/11)
Chelsea 3-0 Rennes (4/11)
Burnley 0-3 Chelsea (31/10)
Krasnodar 0-4 Chelsea (28/10)
Manchester United 0-0 Chelsea (24/10)
Just as Newcastle looked poised to capitalise upon a promising win against the season's early pace-setters, Everton, they were soundly dispatched by Southampton in the last game before the international break. Chelsea's 3-3 capitulation against the same opposition prompted their remarkable uptick in defensive resolve.
While Newcastle's record of 13 goals conceded in eight games is decidedly average, they occupy two ends of the extreme when it comes to the quantity and quality of the chances they give up. No Premier League side affords the opposition more than the 16 shots per game Newcastle currently average, yet the quality of these chances - based on FBref's expected goals (xG) figures - is a league low.
However, against a side with the attacking talent Chelsea currently boast, conceding so many opportunities - even if they are from low-percentage positions - is a recipe for trouble.
Prediction: Newcastle 0-2 Chelsea
Source : 90min