NEWCASTLE defender Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa has been backed to stop an in-form Fernando Torres at St James’s Park tomorrow.
Torres has hit form for Chelsea in recent weeks, with the £50million former Liverpool striker scoring three goals in his last two games.
Yanga-Mbiwa and defensive partner Mike Williamson will be tasked with stopping the Spain international in the televised game (12.45pm kick-off).
Newcastle manager Alan Pardew felt Yanga-Mbiwa had his best game of the season in Wednesday night’s Capital One Cup defeat to Manchester City, which was decided by extra-time goals from Alvaro Negredo and Edin Dzeko.
Pardew admits the 24-year-old has been on a steep learning curve since joining Newcastle in January from French club Montpellier.
But he feels the France international is getting to grips with English football.
“I thought Mapou had one of his best games this season, and that was pleasing,” Pardew said.
“He’s a player that’s learning about the Premier League.
“It’s hard at centre-half. I don’t care who you are. You can look at Liverpool’s centre-halves and Arsenal’s centre-halves.
“It takes a while to get it, but he showed great attitude and great ability, and we’re going to need that against Chelsea.”
Pardew lost left-backs Paul Dummett and Massadio Haidara to injury against City, and he has conceded that his squad is getting “stretched”.
“We’re pretty stretched going into Chelsea,” said Pardew.
Pardew has also confirmed that a new long-term contract has been offered to 22-year-old Dummett.
“We have a deal in place for Paul,” he said. “That’s something that has been talked about since the start of the season.
“Whether that gets resolved, I don’t know.
“Unfortunately, he’s got an injury which will rule him out of Saturday. But he’s on a crest of a wave, and we love him.”
Dummett signed a one-year contract in the summer after a successful loan spell at St Mirren last season.