Match preview: Newcastle v Chelsea

Newcastle United v Chelsea, Premier League, April 4, 2009

It still feels like an April Fools, but the fact is the prodigal son has returned and this could be a fixture to take the bookies to the cleaners with a number of factors now pointing towards a Toon win.

Alan Shearer’s return to St. James’ is going to be one of the hottest stories of the weekend and after a woeful season, the Toon army will now feel they can avoid the dreaded drop thanks to their former number nine.

Newcastle have won one of their last 14 and were beginning to look doomed, stuck in the bottom three they have to get something out of this game. The four direct teams above Newcastle have games where they could all take points and with a visit to Stoke coming up next, this is one of the most important games seen at St. James’ Park in many years.

Aside from the fact that Newcastle will be buoyed by Shearer’s return and presence on the touchline, they should also have a fired up Michael Owen. The former Liverpool and Real Madrid striker was the center of much attention earlier this week and will surely be itching to prove the doubters wrong and help his former strike partner in his first game in charge. (Owen, who has scored eight goals this season, is 8/1 to score the first goal and a tasty 100/1 to claim a hat-trick.)

The odds are also stacked in Newcastle’s favour due to some other issues affecting the visitors. Chelsea saw their title challenge all but end last time out at White Hart Lane and will surely be preserving their energy for their visit to Anfield on Wednesday for the Champions League quarter-final first leg. The Blues will also be hampered by the fact that Guus Hiddink will have had little time to prepare for this game as he has been with the Russian national team since the 1-0 loss at Spurs.

In truth, much of the hysteria should be tempered by the fact that Shearer isn’t returning to play but will have a negligible impact on the touchline. But, we are swiftly entering the stage of the season where relegation threatened teams pick up surprise results and Newcastle’s need and likely zeal with their new messiah could see them claim a victory against a Chelsea side with other prizes to fight for.

101gg predicts: Newcastle 3 – Chelsea 1 (50/1) & Newcastle to win having been behind (25/1)

Full match odds here.