THERE’S a growing sense of belief at Chelsea that they have taken the corner and are developing into a solid and cohesive unit under Mauricio Pochettino.
The Argentine manager and his squad were all over the place after he stepped in to take charge at Stamford Bridge in the off-season.
The club brought in a raft of new players after American Todd Boehly took over last year and spent more than £1bil (RM5.88bil) on transfers and loan fees.
Given that scenario, it was understandable that things went awry, and they did in a big way too. Indeed, Chelsea are languishing in 10th place ahead of their visit to Newcastle today.
But Pochettino appears, in a short period, to have steered them clear of all that disorder and gotten his team playing with an offense approach that has troubled even the best.
They have not lost in November, but it is their last two fixtures that will really give them heart on the trip to St James Park this afternoon.
The Blues made mincemeat of Spurs in the 4-1 victory at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium three weeks ago.
It was a juncture when their London neighbours actually led the Premiership standings. They followed that up with a 4-4 draw with champions Manchester City in the game just before the international break.
They also beat Blackburn Rovers 2-0 in the Carabao League Cup at the beginning of this month. But that would have been expected from a squad brimming with talent.
Against Newcastle, eight on the log and four points ahead of today’s opposition, Pochettino will want to continue with the revival of his club. Anything short of that will bring back their detractors in droves.
Eddie Howe has run into a few stumbling blocks of his own this term. The 45-year-old secured Champions League qualification for the Magpies last season – their first time since 2003 – when they finished fourth.
And with some formidable financial backing of their own, Newcastle are also expected to be challenging at the top instead of sitting in mid-table.
Thus, Chelsea’s visit looks like a “must-win” match for them.
Defeat would certainly erase their recent bounce-back, barring the untimely defeat at the hands of Bournemouth and Borussia Dortmund. Prior to that, Newcastle beat Arsenal and Manchester United in successive fixtures.
And that’s why the showdown at St James Park today could turn into a fiery clash.