Strongest Chelsea XI vs Newcastle: Hazard, Willian and Pedro Start, Giroud, Morata Dropped

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Alvaro Morata (hamstring) is back in training and Maurizio Sarri is “hopeful” of his recovery for the visit of Newcastle, though Ruben Loftus-Cheek (back) remains out.

Olivier Giroud, Pedro and Willian all returned from their own injuries in the Carabao Cup defeat to Spurs on Tuesday and the Chelsea boss now has a plethora of options available to him in attack – including youngster Callum Hudson-Odoi – after the fitness concerns of recent weeks.

Hazard was deployed as a false nine again in that EFL Cup loss and Sarri has made no secret of his preference for the Belgian in that position, so the talismanic winger may keep Giroud and Morata out of the side for Saturday’s match.

Pedro and Willian are the favourites to flank Hazard, though Sarri said on Friday that the Brazilian “can do better”.

Mateo Kovacic was rested to the bench at Wembley in midweek so has a good shout of replacing Ross Barkley in central midfield on Saturday, though Cesc Fabregas won’t be involved as his exit from the club draws ever nearer.

David Luiz should also return at the expense of Andreas Christensen (who Sarri said was “tired” on Friday, along with Hudson-Odoi) after being handed a breather in the EFL Cup, while full-backs Emerson Palmieri and David Zappacosta will retain faint hopes of a promotion to the starting XI – though Marcos Alonso and Cesar Azpilicueta are ever-presents in the league this season.

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