By, Ayodeji Itasanmi (Twitter: @aryhorblueblood)
Goodison Park/December 23, 2017
We may have escaped from the Carabao Cup quarter final tie against Bournemouth by the skin of our teeth but that’s what champions are made of and a win is a win no matter how it comes about. To score straight from the kick off after conceding a 90th minute equalizer is no mean feat and it takes gut but I’m sure Antonio Conte will be keen to stress to his players that we may not have that luxury against a top team and that’s without any disrespect for the Cherries. It was a joy for me personally that Ethan Ampadu was voted man of the match on Wednesday night something that’s sure to give his confidence a boost and should be ready if the coach decides to use him at Goodison Park on Saturday lunch time. Everton have won four of their last five encounters since making the permanent appointment of Sam Allardyce so this is shaping up to be a very exciting encounter.
There’s a lot of history between these two Premier League clubs with the two having faced off a combined 178 times prior to Saturday’s match with Chelsea boasting a statistic of W72 D52 L54. Chelsea has won more games against Everton in the Premier League than against any other club and has also scored more against the Merseysiders than against any other team in the Premier League. Chelsea has won the four matches on the trot against the Toffees for the concession of one goal while scoring twelve but Everton won two of the previous three before that run of four games that included an FA Cup quarter final match in which former Blue Romelu Lukaku scored his first two goals against Chelsea. Chelsea has lost just two of the last ten against Everton (W7 D1) and when it comes to trips to the Goodison Park it’s more even with Chelsea winning 4 of the last ten (L5 D1). This will be the 52nd meeting between these two teams in the Premier League with Chelsea winning 25 of the previous 51 (L9 D17). Chelsea has failed to score against Everton three times in the last 15 fifteen encounters with the Merseysiders and we ended up on the losing side on all three occasions the last of which came in the 2-0 defeat in the quarter final of the FA Cup in the 2015/2016 season.
Antonio Conte will surely be pleased with the performance of his fringe players, if I can call them that, most of all the matured and composed showing of young Ethan Ampadu who walked away with the man of the match award despite receiving a caution in the first minutes of the match. We surely have a gem in our hands and we have Exeter City to thank for it. Antonio Conte spoke glowingly of the youngster in his post-match interview, an indication of further involvement with the first team but I doubt he’ll be on the trip to the Goodison on Saturday. Moses and Alonso should be back in the team for the match on Saturday having been rested for the Carabao Cup match against Bournemouth in midweek and so will the duo of Azpilicueta and Christensen, who should continue in the heart of our three-man defense in the continued absence of David Luiz. It’s too early to know how Antonio Conte will line his team up against what’s sure to be a very physical Everton side but however he chooses to set up he’ll have to do with the absence Alvaro Morata who was bizarrely shown a yellow card for his celebration of his goal on Wednesday night. Conte has lined up with the trio of Willian, Pedro and Hazard in attack in the recent absence of the Spaniard even though Michy Batshuayi is fit and in the team but against a team that’s tutored by the ultra-defensive Sam Allardyce I doubt this is the game to go without a recognized striker. I know Michy Batshuayi didn’t exactly cover himself in glory on Wednesday but his physicality and movement might come in handy at the weekend in order to open up spaces for the rest of the team. N’Golo Kante also got a rest for the midweek game against Bournemouth, after playing ten consecutive matches since he made his return against Manchester United in early November, and should be back in the team for the trip to Goodison but we have to wait and see who partners the French dynamite in midfield. I have the gut feeling that both Eden Hazard and Cesc Fabregas will be very important to the outcome of this match but then so will every member of the squad.
Courtois; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Cahill; Victor Moses, Fabregas, Bakayoko, Kante, Alonso; Hazard, Batshuayi.
Last Five Matches: WWLDW
Injuries: David Luiz (Knee) –Out; Alvaro Morata (Suspended) –Out.
Everton have begun to move up the table and are yet to lose a game under their new manager, Sam Allardyce. In his first match in charge of the Toffees, Allardyce lined up in a 4-4-2 formation with both Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Oumar Niasse starting up front but since that game he has reverted to his more favoured 4-2-3-1 with both Morgan Schneiderlin, who hasn’t played much recently, and Idrissa Gueye shielding the back four of Jonjo Kenny, Mason Holgate, Ashley Williams and Rhu-endly Martina. The trio of Gylfi Sigurdsson, Aaron Lennon and Wayne Rooney were chosen to play behind lone striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin. Mason Holgate has started every game under Allardyce alongside Ashley Williams in the heart of the Everton defense with summer signing Micheal Keane on the bench for each of those matches. With results now improving the Everton faithfuls will surely be in full voice when the Champions comes to town on Saturday in order to make it as difficult as possible for the visitors.
Pickford; Kenny, Holgate, Williams, Martina; Schneiderlin, Gueye; Sigurdsson, Rooney, Lennon; Calvert-Lewin.
Last 5 matches: WLLLL
Injuries: Yannick Bolasie (Knee) –Out; Leighton Baines (Calf) –Out; Marten Stekelenburg (Groin) –Out; Ross Barkley (Groin) –Out; Seamus Coleman (Broken Leg) –Out; Ramiro Funes Mori (Knee) –Out.
Marcos Alonso vs. Aaron Lennon
Just like Moses on the opposite flank, Marcos Alonso will have his hands full in containing the pacey and tricky English winger. Lennon is not the most physical but he can cause a load of trouble with his pace and occasionally he puts in a decent cross. This should be an interesting duel.
Victor Moses vs. Gylfi Sigurdsson
Sam Allardyce has lived up to his reputation of playing from the wings with a physical striker to aim for. Gylfi Sigurdsson is as good as anyone in the league in putting decent crosses into the box for any good striker to go for and Victor Moses must be alert to that danger all game!
Andreas Christensen vs. Dominic Calvert-Lewin
This will be a battle of the young guns when these two academy graduates lock horns on Saturday. Christensen will have to be on his toe for the entire duration of the match on Saturday or he’ll be made to pay by Calvert-Lewin whose physicality and off the ball movements belies his age but given how Christensen has been playing then he’s not going to be fazed be this.
Even though Sam Allardyce hasn’t change anything of note from the previous regime, apart from bringing back Morgan Schneiderlin into the team and the conversion of Mason Holgate to a centre back, results have improved and confidence is sure to be high ahead of the visit of the champions. With this being be the last round of fixture before Christmas the stake couldn’t be higher. A win for Antonio Conte’s team coupled with a draw between Liverpool and Arsenal will give Chelsea some more breathing space and secure our position in third for some time yet. This is a game in which Alvaro Morata’s height in the box would have come in handy but he isn’t because the ref wasn’t comfortable with how he celebrated his late winner on Wednesday. This is wishing every Blues fan outside a splendid Christmas holidays (hope Christmas comes early for us with a win tomorrow) and remember to Keep The Blue Flag Flying High!
Thumbnail image courtesy of: Mirror UK
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