Chelsea could, somehow, close the gap to Newcastle to just one point if they were to win at St James’ Park on Saturday, the next time they play. After a disappointing start to life in charge Mauricio Pochettino’s men are finally starting to hit their stride, or so it seems.

Since returning from the September international break their form has been much stronger and the current run stands at five wins and two draws in the last eight games. It has not so much propelled them up the table but cemented in the minds of many just why they are still to be feared this season.

Heading into a week where they would face both the top two sides at the time the Blues started with a loss to Brentford – cementing in the minds of many just why they would be a laughing stock again this season – but followed that up with four points and eight goals against Tottenham and Manchester City.

Although the international break is rarely wanted it did indeed come at a good time here, in one way at least. Chelsea’s last two games have been some of the most dramatic, unpredictable, entertaining and energy sapping of recent years. With games against Eddie Howe’s Champions League chasing Toon, Brighton and Manchester United to come a fortnight to recoup might not be the worst thing.

It has allowed for some of the players to build their fitness, notably Christopher Nkunku and Romeo Lavia as they both build towards first competitive appearances for the club. “It is close and he is really well,” Pochettino said of the Frenchman before the break. “We are happy with him. Romeo Lavia is also close. They trained today on the pitch. Hopefully with the team next week.”

They are targeting returns before 2024 and have a chance now to get fit. For Raheem Sterling it is reflection time. Having been left out of England’s squad for the third time in a row under Gareth Southgate and the European Championships a little over six months away he will need to perform at the levels he has in the past three weeks for much longer.

Sterling has been in training at Cobham in the past five days, taking part in sessions with Reece James, Marc Cucurella, Rob Sanchez, Armando Broja, Benoit Badiashile and a host of youngsters. It now looks like the team may well have been given some time off over the weekend though with Pochettino appearing to be back in Barcelona.

The Argentine used to visit Spain frequently during his time as Tottenham manager and would take the opportunity whenever it arose to get some more sun and a momentary break where possible. He has been seen in training before now but posted twice on Instagram with scenery from his home away from home.

“Saturday vibes [sun emoji],” he wrote with an image of himself leaning back on a chair with the rays beating down on him during the afternoon. He then posted at the Xavier Pellicer restaurant into the evening.

Pochettino isn’t the only one on their travels. Thiago Silva is also spending time away from London and has gone back to Brazil. This time not to play for his country, Silva is simply enjoying some time back in South America. The 39-year-old spent the first part of the break working in the gym but also going to some live music with family and friends as well as getting involved with beach volleyball and having a singing session in Mangaratiba.

Of those that went away on international duty Cole Palmer made his England debut in a 2-0 win over Malta, coming from the bench in an otherwise disappointing evening for Gareth Southgate despite the three points. Malo Gusto had been called up by France Under-21s but pulled out, James had already declined to go away with the Three Lions in favour of looking after his fitness whilst Levi Colwill joined up with his country briefly before withdrawing with a shoulder problem.

Conor Gallagher played for England as well on Friday but only lasted 45 minutes, not taking full advantage of his chance from the start. Mykhailo Mudryk is yet to play for Ukraine but faces a huge clash on Monday with Italy. Nicolas Jackson was a second half substitute for Senegal in a 4-0 win over South Sudan, Axel Disasi was an unused substitute in a 14-0 win for France over Gibraltar and Noni Madueke started in a 3-0 win for England Under-21s against Serbia.

In terms of impact it has so far been a slow week for Pochettino’s men but that isn’t likely to be a major worry as they look to prepare for heading to the north east. The Magpies have a host of injury worries themselves and could be without more than 12 players for the game.

With the shoe very much on the other foot in this scenario Chelsea will just be keen to get through the next set of matches unscathed and have everyone come together with Silva and Pochettino reunited, James fully fit and Sterling ready to go.

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