Guus Hiddink has warned his Chelsea players they will have to cope with fired-up opponents and a red-hot atmosphere when they visit Newcastle tomorrow for the first match of Alan Shearer's reign.
Hiddink has no doubt that Shearer - who has been appointed as Magpies boss until the end of the season with a mandate to save them from the drop - will put some fire in the bellies of a squad that has performed woefully for the last couple of months. "Everyone knows their situation," the Dutchman said.
"There will be a reaction from the team and the crowd and we can expect a tight game and a lot of fighting spirit from our opponents tomorrow. The instant input and change in the dressing room will give their players a lot of energy and that is an extra aspect of the game we have to deal with tomorrow."
Chelsea will be without Didier Drogba, who suffered an ankle injury in training, and will not be risked with Wednesday's UEFA Champions League quarter-final first leg against Liverpool looming. Right-back Jose Bosingwa, who injured his hamstring on international duty with Portugal, is also set to miss the trip norht.
"Bosingwa got a hamstring injury and will not be available for tomorrow," said Hiddink. "We will see what he can do up to Wednesday. Drogba has a problem. We did an exercise where he got injured and he will not be in the squad tomorrow. He has a problem in the ankle. We did some shooting practice and he hit the ground with his foot and it jarred in the ankle. But Nicolas Anelka is fit and will be in the squad."
Hiddink also revealed he had spoken to both Drogba and his Ivorian team-mate Salomon Kalou after the pair returned following the stadium disaster that killed 19 fans. Drogba scored twice as the Elephants beat Malawi 5-0 but the game was marred by the tragic loss of life among the supporters.
"It is always good to have the players back after the international break," said Hiddink. "You talk about winning, or losing, but we also talked about this issue as well. Sometimes we forget there are other things in life and this was one of those issues that was more important than the daily madness of football. We talked about that and it was a tragedy. We are human beings as well so we don't just focus on the football. I don't neglect those issues."
Chelsea's hopes of winning the title were rocked by a defeat at Tottenham two weeks ago, on the day Fulham handed leaders Manchester United a second successive defeat. But Hiddink insists they will continue to fight for the title as long as it is mathematically possible to win it.
"As long as we have the chance to go on, we will fight for that," said Hiddink. "We are still going for the title. Tottenham was a lost opportunity for us but we will continue to fight for the title while we can."