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Mourinho’s Chelsea aim to get back on track

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LONDON, January 9 – Jose Mourinho will attempt to put a troubled festive campaign behind him when Chelsea resume their Premier League title push against Newcastle on Saturday.

Mourinho’s side have allowed second placed Manchester City to move level on points at the top of the table after a draw with Southampton and a defeat at Tottenham in their last two league matches.

As if squandering an eight-point lead over City wasn’t frustrating enough for the Chelsea manager, Mourinho discovered on Thursday that he had been hit by a Football Association misconduct charge for comments he made about referee Anthony Taylor after the Southampton clash.

Mourinho described the decision to book Cesc Fabregas for diving instead of awarding a penalty as a “scandal” and went on to describe Taylor’s performance as “awful”, prompting the FA to take action.

The Portuguese coach has until January 13 to respond but, more significantly, by then he will know whether or not his team’s recent wobble has been corrected.

Chelsea responded positively to the 5-3 defeat at White Hart Lane with a 3-0 win over Watford in the FA Cup third round last weekend.

But victory over the Championship side was achieved only after Mourinho made a double substitution at half-time, introducing Willian and Diego Costa after an unconvincing first half display.

That raised questions about the quality of the Mourinho’s back-up players with Andre Schurrle once again failing to impress during a 45-minute appearance.

And with Chelsea due to play six times before the end of January, the manager is certain to need all the players at his disposal if his side are to maintain a challenge on four fronts.

The visit of Newcastle has been overshadowed by reports of a possible shock move for Argentina forward Lionel Messi whose relationship with Barcelona coach Luis Enrique has been placed under scrutiny.

Mourinho has repeatedly played down any suggestion Messi might move to Stamford Bridge and will no doubt maintain that stance as he attempts to ensure his side are not knocked off the top of the table.

After making eight changes to his starting line for the visit of Watford, the manager will revert to a more familiar starting line-up against Newcastle.

– Managerial search –

Meanwhile, mid-table Newcastle are continuing their search for a new head coach after the departure of Alan Pardew to Premier League rivals Crystal Palace.

Caretaker boss John Carver, who is keen to take on the role full-time, is expected to be in charge for at least the next two games to give Mike Ashley, the club’s billionaire owner, chance to finalise a short-list of candidates.

High-profile names including former England managers Steve McClaren and Glenn Hoddle have already ruled themselves out of the running, with ex-Lyon coach Remi Garde and Ajax’s Frank de Boer leading the list of contenders.

Newcastle can become the first side this season to achieve the double over Chelsea following their 2-1 victory over the Premier League leaders at St James’ Park last month.

Carver could be at the helm until the end of the season if Ashley decides to bide his time before making a appointment and the 49-year-old said: “I spoke to (managing director) Lee Charnley yesterday and I’m definitely in charge for Chelsea and possibly the next match against Southampton.

“There was no talk beyond that. As far as I’m concerned it’s all about preparing for Chelsea.”

Newcastle goalkeeper Tim Krul is set to return in from a two-month ankle injury lay-off, and defender Davide Santon is in line to make his first league start for nine months after groin surgery.

Skipper Fabricio Coloccini, midfielder Moussa Sissoko and defender Daryl Janmaat are all fit after missing the FA Cup defeat at Leicester.

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