MOUSSA Sissoko’s the one Newcastle United player Chelsea fear above all others – and he “owes” the club a big performance after his dismissal.
Sissoko returns from suspension against Jose Mourinho’s Premier League leaders tomorrow.
The midfielder has helped Newcastle beat Chelsea on their last two visits to St James’s Park.
And United manager Alan Pardew is looking for another match-winning display from Sissoko, sent off against West Ham United last weekend for two bookable offences.
Pardew – who has labelled the sending off “needless” – knows Mourinho will be preoccupied with stopping the France international, who had to sit out Tuesday night’s 1-1 draw at Burnley.
“I think he does owe the team a little bit, if I’m honest,” said Pardew, whose side are ninth in the table.
“That sending off was needless, and he’d be the first to admit that.
“On the other hand, if there’s one player that Mourinho – and I know how thorough he is with his preparation – will have a close eye on, it’s Moussa.
“He impacts the opposition in an offensive way.
“He’s been absolutely superb for us, and I’m looking for a big game for him.”
Sissoko scored twice on his home debut against Chelsea two seasons ago after his move from Toulouse in January last year.
However, the 25-year-old, in common with many of his team-mates, was found wanting in the latter months of last season.
“I think part of that was that the team dipped,” added Pardew.
“I wouldn’t put everything at his door. He’s a young player – he’s 25 – and he’s got 27 French national caps already. This is a guy who could get 50, 60 or 70 caps for France.
“He’s a powerful player. He’s improving. He’s actually better now than he was then.
“He has more experience and better knowledge of the Premier League. He’s improved technically.”
Arsenal were linked with a move for Sissoko over the weekend, and Pardew knows his form this season will inevitably lead to speculation about his future.
“We’ve had no contact, but he’s playing at a club where big clubs have come before and taken players out,” said Pardew.
“Therefore, I guess he is a player they’ll be looking at, and quite rightly so, as he’s been terrific.”