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Benitez must axe £35k-a-wk liability for good: Three things learned about Newcastle v Chelsea

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OPINION

Newcastle United fell to a disappointing 2-1 defeat by Chelsea on Saturday at Stamford Bridge, and there were plenty of talking points to take away from the clash.

The Magpies went behind early as Pedro raced onto a sublime ball over the top from David Luiz before chipping Martin Dubravka, but they were level at half-time after a bullet header from centre-back Ciaran Clark.

Rafa Benitez’s side looked solid at the back all game but failed to close down Willian as the Brazil international curled Chelsea ahead on the hour mark to win the three points.

This is Futbol have picked out three things we learned about Newcastle v Chelsea below

Lejeune is back

One of the huge positives for Newcastle to take away from this clash is the performance of Florian Lejeune upon his return to the starting lineup after several months out through injury. The 27-year-old slotted straight back into the side so seamlessly, and really proved his quality with a brilliant display. The Frenchman completed the full 90 minutes despite his absence this season, and that is a real bonus for the Magpies moving forward. Lejeune is a defender of the highest calibre, and having a player like that come back to fitness at this point in the season is massive.

Clark not good enough

It was a surprise to many when Benitez decided to play Ciaran Clark instead of Fabian Schar or Federico Fernandez as part of their back three on Saturday, and despite his goal, the Republic of Ireland international’s display unfortunately proved he is not quite good enough for Newcastle. Clark lost Pedro far too easily for Chelsea’s opener, and his overall defensive work was below-par. Obviously it was his goal which got the Magpies back into the game, and it was admittedly a brilliant header, but that was not enough to detract from another poor outing for the 29-year-old, who earns £35,000-a-week on Tyneside [Spotrac].

Longstaff promising

Steering away from the negatives and back to something more positive, midfielder Sean Longstaff enjoyed a really solid debut for the Magpies. The youngster, who has recently signed a fresh deal with the club, was handed his first Premier League start by Benitez after Mohamed Diame missed out through injury. The 21-year-old took some time to settle into the game but by the end he was full of confidence and looked right at home in the Newcastle midfield. His wide range of passing was on full display, and he has most certainly done no harm to his chances of cementing a regular first-team spot at St. James’ Park.




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