London // Champions Chelsea will aim to continue their laborious climb up the Premier League table with a victory at home to Newcastle United on Saturday.
Guus Hiddink’s side are unbeaten in nine league games, but six of those have been draws. They come into the weekend in 13th place and cannot move into the top 10 until the following week at the earliest.
Stamford Bridge continues to be the home of entertaining speculation, however, with the club still searching for a permanent successor to Jose Mourinho and captain John Terry on course to leave at the end of the season.
One man who does appear to have a long-term future at the club is Oscar, despite the Brazil playmaker having reportedly been the subject of a mega-money bid from Chinese Super League club Jiangsu Suning.
“I want to stay here for a long time,” Oscar told Chelsea TV. “I want to win more games, more trophies, because I love Chelsea, I love the fans. I like the city, my family like it here.
“I don’t have a reason to change the club. Everyone likes me here and I’m very happy here.”
But Oscar, who is under contract until June 2019, was at a loss to explain Chelsea’s dramatic fall from grace.
“It’s just the results,” he told Sport magazine. “We started off not doing well this season. Last year we would play well and win, this year we were playing well and not winning. The results are everything.
“It’s better now because we’ve started to win games again. We went back to playing well again. But when we lose, the mood is bad. When we win, the mood is good. It’s the same anywhere.
“We are doing everything we can to win games and get back to the old Chelsea that won last season.”
Defender Kurt Zouma’s season is over after he suffered a serious knee injury in Sunday’s 1-1 draw at home to Manchester United, in which striker Diego Costa netted a stoppage-time equaliser.
England’s Gary Cahill will replace the Frenchman in central defence alongside Terry.
Newcastle’s only aim is to avoid relegation and Jamaal Lascelles feels the arrivals of Jonjo Shelvey and Andros Townsend in the January transfer window can help them address their woeful away record.
Steve McClaren’s side have lost 14 of their last 18 games on the road and start as big outsiders at Stamford Bridge, where they have won just once in 21 Premier League visits.
Both Shelvey and Townsend, signed for a combined £24 million ($34.7 million, 30.6 million euros) from Swansea City and Tottenham Hotspur respectively, played central roles in the 1-0 victory over West Bromwich Albion that lifted the Tyneside club out of the bottom three by a point.
Lascelles, who is available after suspension, is confident the England internationals will help the team pursue an upturn in results in the final third of the season.
“All the January arrivals have given everyone a lift,” said the 22-year-old defender.
“In Andros and Jonjo, we’ve brought in two big characters, which I think we needed because we’ve lacked a bit of leadership and determination on the pitch recently.
“They’ve lifted us and hopefully we can go to Chelsea and get three points.”
McClaren hopes to welcome back midfielder Jack Colback and defender Paul Dummett from injury, while right-back Daryl Janmaat faces a fitness test on a thigh muscle problem.
Dutch goalkeeper Tim Krul, French winger Gabriel Obertan, Senegal forward Papiss Cisse and defensive pair Chancel Mbemba and Massadio Haidara remain sidelined with longer-term injuries.
English Premier League fixtures (in UAE time)
Sunderland v Manchester United, 4.45pm
Bournemouth v Stoke, 7pm
Crystal Palace v Watford, 7pm
Everton v West Brom, 7pm
Norwich v West Ham, 7pm
Swansea v Southampton, 7pm
Chelsea v Newcastle, 9.30pm
Arsenal v Leiceste, 4pm
Aston Villa v Liverpool, 6.05pm
Manchester City v Tottenham, 8.15pm
Follow us on Twitter @NatSportUAE
Like us on Facebook at facebook.com/TheNationalSport