NEWCASTLE: Roman Abramovich’s Chelsea firesale adds unexpected spice to Newcastle United’s visit to Stamford Bridge this afternoon — however, Eddie Howe doesn’t think it will have any bearing on the result.
Headlines in world football have been awash with the situation at Stamford Bridge, as Russian owner Abramovich had his assets frozen by the UK government because of his connections to Vladimir Putin.
And while Thomas Tuchel, the public face of the Blues, has fielded any number of political and ethical questions over ownership in recent days, Howe does not think that will impact the way his team plays.
“I am only going to answer in terms of a football perspective and I don’t think it will have any bearing on how Chelsea play,” said Howe on how the Ukraine crisis has impacted the world and European champions.
“And for us, you can’t change the preparation.
“I have been watching Chelsea historically and we are putting together a game plan to try and go there to win. I don’t expect this game to be any different.”
On Thursday, foreign secretary Liz Truss announced a full asset freeze of the billionaire oligarch’s assets.
Chelsea have been given a special license to continue to play matches, however the operations of the club will be severely limited.
Ticket and merchandise sales cannot now be processed, though, nor can transfers or new contracts in the playing and support staff.
Stamford Bridge will likely be full this afternoon, though, with all sales made prior to sanctions being imposed.
Howe, named as the Premier League manager of the month, has positive memories of visiting West London as a top-flight coach, having won three of five visits while in charge at Bournemouth.
He said: “I think it is a very special place to play football.
“I have enjoyed three of those games, of the five, but didn’t enjoy the other two very much.
“It is a very special place. They have top players, the stadium is close to the pitch, a great atmosphere and they have got a top manager, I have a huge amount of respect for Thomas — I think he has done an incredible job.
“We are going to be at our very, very best. We know the size of the task.
“It is a game where you have to get everything right.”
Howe’s squad is nursing a number of knocks ahead of this afternoon’s clash, with Allan Saint-Maximin (illness) and Joelinton (groin) both doubts.
The likes of Bruno Guimaraes and Fabian Schar also picked up knocks in the Southampton win in midweek.
Is the head coach considering changes?
“I think everyone in our squad is in contention to play,” said Howe, in typical diplomatic fashion.
“We will let the dust settle on this one and see how we are physically. There is a lot of cramp in the squad.
“We are going to have to be physically very good against Chelsea, so we will have to see and take it on an individual basis.”
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