The Numbers Game: Newcastle United at 11-year high as they aim to pile more misery on Chelsea

For Newcastle United and Chelsea, their respective outlooks heading into the final fixture before the World Cup couldn't be much more different.

While Eddie Howe's side are enjoying a brilliant season that at this point looks set to end with a European spot at the very least, Chelsea have endured a difficult few weeks and are on the slide.

Essentially, the World Cup break comes at the worst possible moment for Newcastle, but for Chelsea it's perfectly timed as it can potentially act as a circuit-breaker.

Nevertheless, there's still time for Chelsea to improve their collective mood heading into the break – though Saturday's trip to St James' Park is going to be a real test.

Newcastle a different beast

In the world of football, people love to look back for omens. Chelsea and their fans might be able to trick themselves into some confidence if they reflect on the club's record against Newcastle.

The Blues have won three of their past four Premier League away games against the Magpies – if they rack up another, they'll make it three victories in a row at St James' Park for the first time since 1958.

Similarly, Chelsea have won seven of their previous eight league games against Newcastle (L1), including the past four in a row without conceding.

But this Newcastle is obviously a rather different proposition. They'll be playing a Premier League game after starting the day in the top three for the first time since November 2011, and it'll be the first time they've faced Chelsea while above them in the table in 12 and a half years.

Newcastle also head into the game knowing a win will see them tally five top-flight triumphs in a row for the first time in eight years.

Chelsea have the blues

Graham Potter made history after going unbeaten in his first nine games at the Chelsea helm, but since then they've lost three out of four matches.

Wednesday's 2-0 loss to Manchester City in the EFL Cup third round was hardly a major shock, but it'll have done little to improve their state of mind after the team's confidence took a battering – literally and figuratively – in the 4-1 defeat to Potter's former side Brighton and Hove Albion and a 1-0 reverse at home to Arsenal.

The latter two were both in the league and were only separated by a slender Champions League victory over Dinamo Zagreb, meaning defeat on Saturday would see them lose three top-flight games in a row for the first time since November 2015 when Jose Mourinho was in charge.

Shot-shy Chelsea

Part of Chelsea's problem has been their struggles in front of goal, which perhaps shouldn't be seen as hugely shocking given they let two strikers in Timo Werner and Romelu Lukaku leave in pre-season.

Only five clubs have had fewer shots in the Premier League this term than Chelsea (151), with their average of 11.6 shots per game their lowest on record in a single campaign (since 1997-98).

Chelsea
Chelsea

By comparison, their hosts are having no such issues.

Only Liverpool and Manchester City have had more shots than Newcastle (208), with their average of 14.9 attempts per game their highest since 2013-14 (15.2).

Newcastle
Newcastle

Chelsea do at least have two players who've enjoyed facing Newcastle in the past. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been involved in nine goals in as many meetings with them in all competitions, his best return against one team in English football, while Raheem Sterling has recorded six goal involvements in his past six league games against the Magpies.

However, neither could be considered in a rich vein of form – that's certainly not something you could say about Newcastle's Miguel Almiron.

Almiron's on fire

Almiron's turnaround at Newcastle has genuinely been quite heart-warming, particularly against the backdrop of those disparaging comments made by Jack Grealish earlier this year.

The Paraguayan has been utterly lethal for Newcastle this season, and his form received the recognition it deserved on Friday when he was announced as the Premier League's Player of the Month for October.

Miguel Almiron
Miguel Almiron

But his excellence hasn't just been localised to October. Almiron has eight goals in 14 Premier League games this term, just one fewer than he managed in his first 110 in the competition combined.

Clearly, though, he's really found his groove in the past few weeks, as a goal against Chelsea will see him become the first player to net in five successive league games for the club since Joe Willock's remarkable run of seven at the end of the 2020-21 season.