ALAN Pardew thinks the pressure on Chelsea could play into the hands of his Newcastle United side today, but fears their wounded pride will make them a more dangerous prospect.
The Magpies entertain André Villas-Boas’ men in today’s televised lunchtime kick-off at St James Park. A point and a place above the visitors, many have them as the favourites against opponents who have lost five of their last nine matches in all competitions. Pardew thinks it could have a bearing on Chelsea’s approach.
He said: “I just think Chelsea’s results, with the stature of players they have and the games they have coming up, this will be a game they will look to win.
“They will have that attitude. I saw them on Tuesday night (when they were knocked out of the League Cup by Liverpool) and there is a feeling there they need to kick on. I could sense there are people there who know they have to put this right.
“Most of the big hitters will be hoping to put it right when they come up to us.
“I don’t think André Villas-Boas has been under this sort of pressure and it is at times like this the players either stand by you or they do not. The nature of the players and the manager, I am sure they will.”
The 34-year-old Portuguese will have to hope he is right. Chelsea’s senior players have seen off more than one manager they did not see eye-to-eye with.
A Newcastle victory will almost certainly prompt more headlines about Villas-Boas suffering the same fate as the likes of Luiz Felipe Scolari but, in the week Sunderland’s Steve Bruce became the first Premier League manager to lose his job, Pardew does not think that will be the case.
“You are talking about a different pressure here in England with the Press and I don’t think he has experienced anything like it before in Portugal,” reflected Pardew. “The intensity of the media makes it very difficult.
“I can see what he is trying to do, he is trying to put more energy into the side.
“They have had quite a slow build-up over the last eight years and that has brought them fantastic success, but he wants to make the pitch a little bit smaller and put more pace and energy in the team.
“The management there, the owners, must have looked at him long term.
Why give it (the manager’s job) to a 34-year-old if you are not thinking long term? I don’t see a change there.
“I could say I have 16 or 17 years’ (managerial experience) on him, but he would say, ‘Well, I have won five trophies’ – the Europa League, the league, the cup and whatever else he won at Porto.
“He has had a fantastic start to his managerial career and he is at a massive club.
“He has handled himself pretty well. Results could have been better but at the club he is at, that is all it is about.”
Newcastle go into the game on the back of a morale-boosting 1-1 draw at Manchester United, the second of a difficult three-match spell which started with their city rivals.
Pardew added: “I thought the game at Man City stood us in good stead for the trip to Manchester United. Against Chelsea we will have that assurance. It will be very important we do not do what Wolves did and give away an early goal and give them a lift (the Blues won 3-0, breaking up a run of three defeats). They still have fantastic players and will take any lift we give them. We cannot open the back door and have to chase a deficit. The first goal will be important.”
TWO of Newcastle’s home games in February will be shown live on TV.
The visit of Alex Mcleish’s Aston Villa, originally scheduled for Saturday the 4th, will now be a day later with a 1.30pm kick-off, the game being screened on Sky.
The following Saturday’s game against Spurs will be shown on ESPN with a 5.30pm kick-off.