Mikel Merino is relishing going head-to-head with Cesc Fabregas at Stamford Bridge.
The Newcastle United midfielder hopes to face his Spanish countryman in tomorrow’s game against Chelsea.
For a player like me, who is young and playing my first matches as a professional, it’s incredible to play against someone like Cesc Fabregas.Mikel Merino
Merino returned to Rafa Benitez’s starting XI in Tuesday night’s 2-2 draw against West Bromwich Albion after recovering from a back problem.
And the 21-year-old hopes to keep his place at Stamford Bridge.
Antonio Conte also has Alvaro Morata, Pedro and Cesar Azpilicueta in his squad.
“Chelsea have some great Spanish players,” said Merino, signed from Borussia Dortmund in the summer.
“They have great players all over the field, but it’s obviously the Spanish players that I know most about and have grown up watching.
“We know it’s going to be a hard match, but we’ll be going with plenty of confidence, knowing that we can beat anybody. We want to do a great match.”
Merino’s direct opponent could be former Barcelona and Arsenal midfielder Fabregas, who won the World Cup and European Championships, twice, with Spain.
Fabregas, 30, has also twice won the Premier League with Chelsea.
“I’m looking forward to playing against Fabregas – he’s been a great player for Spain and in the Premier League,” said Merino.
“For a player, like me, who’s young and playing my first matches as a professional, it’s incredible to play against someone like Cesc Fabregas.
“You feel like you are in a film or a video game.
“It’s amazing to be able to play against one of these players.
“But it makes me even more determined to improve myself so I can fight with them.”
Merino added: “I want to show that I’m at the same level they are, and deserve to be playing against them.
“Why not? Why not try to eventually get better than them?”
Meanwhile, Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has been charged with misconduct by the Football Association following his dismissal against Swansea City on Wednesday.
Conte was sent to the stands by referee Neil Swarbrick towards the end of the first half of Chelsea’s 1-0 victory after furiously protesting the award of a goal-kick.
He later apologised to Swarbrick, and fourth official Lee Mason, but has been charged.
Conte has until 6pm on Tuesday to respond, but, given his apology, he’s unlikely to contest the charge and will accept the punishment, which is anticipated to be a fine.
Chelsea defender David Luiz is expected to miss the Newcastle game with a knee injury. “Now it’s very difficult (for Luiz),” said Conte.
“He had liquid in his knee, and we have to assess his recovery on the time.
“I hope to not lose him for a lot of time, and I need to have all my players.”