Alan Pardew has claimed that he used his friendship with Jose Mourinho to try and lure Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku to St James’ Park over the summer.
The Newcastle boss is close to Chelsea counterpart Mourinho, a former lieutenant of Sir Bobby Robson, and is relishing the chance to lock managerial horns with the self-proclaimed Special One in a game that has assumed considerable importance for the Magpies chief.
United have lost their last two games and have been guilty of missing gilt-edged chances in recent weeks – especially in their League Cup exit against Manchester City.
That may have been very different if Pardew’s “pestering” of Mourinho had borne fruit over the issue of a loan move for Lukaku.
The Chelsea boss eventually agreed to allow the forward to go out on loan but by then Newcastle had already signed Loic Remy and were engaged in an ultimately fruitless pursuit of Bafetimbi Gomis, which scuppered their chances of landing the forward.
Pardew said: “We have a relationship where we have contact. It’s important sometimes because you can share information about other teams. I was obviously pestering him for Lukaku as well, but that didn’t come off.
“We were one of four or five clubs who were on the phone, but sometimes it’s dictated to you by other factors. He’s a great player and as I say if you can let him go, and still have players like Demba, Mata, Torres, Oscar and Hazard as well... they all roll off the tongue.”
The return of Mourinho comes at a time when Chelsea appear to be regaining some of their authority after some early wobbles this term.
The Blues saw off Arsenal in midweek and are second in the Premier League without yet really hitting their stride. Worse still for Pardew, it appears as if the glint has returned in Mourinho’s eye given the events of recent weeks.
Pardew has issued a playful warning to the Chelsea chief that he will get a “slap” if he attempts to celebrate in front of him this weekend. “I’ve got my own history with that so I don’t have a problem with it. If you’re a football person and you can’t love what he’s about then you can’t love the game or what he does. He makes me laugh.
“He doesn’t want to be jumping round me because I’ll give him a slap. I’m bigger than him and he knows that. He can jump around in the crowd or whatever he does. The bottom line for is is not so much Jose, as what he does with his team, which I take my hat off to.”
The sight of Demba Ba potentially sitting on the Chelsea bench is a “frustrating” one for Pardew. Newcastle made a loan enquiry for the forward in the summer. He said: “It’s frustrating because Demba’s a player who likes to play and he will be frustrated with the situation.”
Meanwhile, Jonas Gutierrez will miss out again – and is still in Argentina. “It’s still a personal issue with him,” Pardew confirmed.