Danny Simpson - Newcastle United News

With Saturday’s humbling at Wigan still fresh in the memory, Newcastle head to Stamford Bridge to take on a resurgent Chelsea, in what could be the pivotal game in the race for 5th and 6th place in the Premier League.

Chelsea are full of confidence after pulling off an incredible victory over Barcelona just a fortnight ago and could still claim FA Cup glory on Saturday, when they take on Liverpool for the trophy. It’s safe to say that both sides will be in Europe next season, although which competitions could yet be subject to change.

A month ago, Newcastle would have been comfortable favourites for this clash, with Chelsea’s cup commitments potentially lingering in the minds of Roberto Di Matteo and his colleagues. However, with the Blues now 6th in the table and in the Champions League final, the FA Cup sinks to the lowest priority, meaning a full strength Chelsea should be awaiting the Magpies’ arrival tonight.

After Saturday’s mauling at the hands of resurgent Wigan, Newcastle must respond after almost everyone who backed them for 4th place performed a spectacular U-turn and began to cast doubt on the Geordies’ run-in. Tonight is a question of character for Alan Pardew’s men, something they haven’t lacked over the last 12 months.

Haris Vuckic, Peter Lovenkrands and Steven Taylor remain sidelined for Newcastle, while Sylvain Marveaux and Danny Guthrie hope to be involved. Despite the result against Wigan, it’s hard to see where Pardew could change his starting line-up for the better, with the possible exception of left-back.

The decision is between Davide Santon, Ryan Taylor and James Perch, although Jonas Gutierrez is also capable of slotting in, with Guthrie coming into midfield. Whoever plays will have to be wary of the talent of Fernando Torres, who seems to be back to his old self following his hat-trick against QPR last week.

Branislav Ivanovic is available again for Chelsea, although fellow defenders David Luiz and Gary Cahill are injured. That means that Jose Bosingwa is likely to start, something that Hatem Ben Arfa will be relishing come kick-off.

A win for Newcastle would put them just one point behind third-placed Arsenal, a position which the Geordies will be chasing hard because if Chelsea go on to win the Champions League, only the top three positions in the Premier League will be good enough for qualification to the world’s most lucrative club competition.

Should the Magpies see of Di Matteo’s side, no doubt the usual cynical Match of the Day pundits will have another change of heart and start backing Pardew’s side for Champions League qualification. Time will tell if the Geordies can overturn the big boys and start mixing it with the likes of Barcelona in Europe next season, but even if Chelsea win the battle of Stamford Bridge tonight, it’s still been an unforgettable season for the flying Magpies.