Newcastle United should feel relatively fresh heading into Saturday's (2 December) Premier League clash with Chelsea after making several changes for the midweek trip to West Bromwich Albion, while manager Rafael Benitez hopes his side have learned their lessons from a heavy defeat to Manchester United.
The promoted Magpies made no fewer than five alterations to their starting XI to face a struggling Baggies team playing their second and final match under caretaker manager Gary Megson, perhaps the most surprising of which was Karl Darlow being selected over Rob Elliot in goal despite previously playing just once this season in an August Carabao Cup defeat to Nottingham Forest.
Javier Manquillo, Mohamed Diame, Jonjo Shelvey and Dwight Gayle also dropped to the bench after a disappointing home defeat to Watford, with Chancel Mbemba, Isaac Hayden, Mikel Merino and Ayoze Perez all earning recalls as part of a return to a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Newcastle initially appeared as if they would live to regret those bold decisions after efforts from Hal Robson-Kanu and Sam Field gave West Brom a seemingly comfortable advantage early in the second half, although a header from Ciaran Clark and a late own goal from the unfortunate Jonny Evans saw the visitors fight back to claim a point and end a dismal run of four successive defeats.
That losing run was Benitez's longest as a Premier League manager and came amid renewed complaints over a lack of financial backing in the summer transfer market and plenty of off-field distractions relating to the potential takeover of Newcastle by Amanda Staveley's Dubai-based firm PCP Capital Partners.
Discussing his selection after the match at West Brom, Benitez insisted that rotation was key at a time when the fixture list becomes particularly hectic heading into the busy festive period.
"When you play two games in a few days, you need fresh legs," he was quoted as saying by the Northern Echo. "For everyone, they need to be sure that they will be part of the team, part of the season, and they need to know they can help the team. Now everybody knows that they can play."
Benitez, who will likely remain without captain Jamaal Lascelles, Paul Dummett and Christian Atsu this weekend, believes the battling spirit shown by Newcastle at The Hawthorns means they can head into the contest with former employers Chelsea in a positive frame of mind, although he also urged his charges to avoid committing the same errors seen against United on 18 November.
Last season's Championship winners actually took a surprise first-half lead at Old Trafford through Gayle before succumbing to a heavy 4-1 loss courtesy of some pretty abject defending.
"We obviously know it will be very difficult [against Chelsea], but the reaction of the team means we can be positive in terms of how we approach the game," Benitez said. "We know that we can do well and it's just a question of being focused, staying concentrated and not making the mistakes that we did against Manchester United, who are a top side.
"Against them we played really well, but then made a couple of mistakes. Now, it's a learning process, but hopefully it can help the team."