Adrian Clarke looks at key tactical points and players who can be decisive in Matchweek 29.
The cornerstone of Newcastle United’s impressive nine-match unbeaten Premier League run has been a well-organised defensive set-up marshalled by January signing Burn.
Before this sequence of results, Newcastle had conceded two or more goals in 12 of their opening 18 matches of 2021/22, leaving themselves with too much to do at the other end of the pitch.
Across this nine-match spell, Newcastle have not let in more than one goal in any of their fixtures and will hope to continue this at Chelsea on Sunday.
Newcastle shots/goals conceded comparison
|First 18 matches||Last eight matches|
|Expected goals against/90||2.0||1.1|
The difference in Newcastle’s defensive stats since their 0-4 defeat to Manchester City on 19 December is remarkable.
They are being opened up far less often, keeping opponents at bay by retaining their shape more effectively, usually in a compact 4-3-3 formation.
Their Expected Goals Against (xGA) average per 90 minutes has halved over the course of the last eight matches, proving that their upturn is deserved and not down to good fortune.
Four of their five lowest xGA numbers for the entire season came in matches Newcastle played during February.
Since arriving, Burn’s excellent performances have left Newcastle fans impressed.
The 29-year-old, who is a native of the north-east, has been in brilliant form since making the switch from Brighton & Hove Albion.
Forming a well-balanced partnership with Fabian Schar, the 6ft 7in left-footed centre-back has looked assured in and out of possession.
Burn has made several crucial interventions via blocks inside the box and by intercepting dangerous passes.
He has also been an incredibly dominant aerial presence, clearing crosses sent into the area more often than any of his team-mates.
Burn's Newcastle defensive stats
|Per 90||Newcastle rank|
Some additional credit should also go to a new-look midfield trio operating in front of Howe’s back four.
While Chelsea will be an entirely different prospect, Howe has won on three of his five visits to Stamford Bridge as a manager.
The form of Burn, and their recent unbeaten run, will give Newcastle plenty of optimism that they can cause an upset in west London.