Chelsea vs. Everton Preview
Goodison Park/April 30, 2017
So we weren’t able to extend our lead over Spurs after this week’s round of fixtures but we’re still sitting pretty at the top of the league table going into this weekend’s round of fixtures. It’s the best away side going up against the third best team at home this season. This is perhaps our toughest of the five remaining fixtures and I’m sure Antonio Conte would have been drumming it into the lads to take it as such. Everton have been a different animal since the turn of the year and they have been in tremendous form at Goodison Park this year where they have racked up eight wins in a row. Romelu Lukaku also plays with increased confidence when at home and a large chunk of his 24 goals this season had been scored at the Goodison Park scoring at least a goal all of their eight consecutive wins. In the reverse fixtures back in November, Ronald Koeman started with the 3-4-3 formation, playing Williams, Jagielka, and Funes Mori at Centre Back, and by the time he reverted back to a 4 man back line the game was already lost with Chelsea cruising into the halftime break 3 goals up. Although they have made some giant strides since that game it will be interesting to know how Koeman decides to counter our style of play this time around. Tuesday was the first time we’ve won when Conte has started a match with Matic, Kante and Fabregas (the other two were lost against Arsenal and Crystal Palace). Personally I think it should either be one or the other of Fabregas and Matic for the balance of the midfield. Willian will be feeling seriously aggrieved right now no matter what we’re led to believe. He obviously wasn’t happy about being substituted back at Wembley and then to be introduced at the 90th minute on Tuesday would have made him even angrier, and now the rumour mill has been linking him with a reunion with Mourinho at Old Trafford. We need a positive result from this game considering Tottenham will host Arsenal much later the same day and we all know the Gunners seem to have the number of their north London neighbours in recent memory. We lost both our matches at Goodison Park last season but then again last season was an anomaly, to say the least, and deserved to be scrapped from our history.
Gary Cahill came straight back into the team to score the all-important second goal on the stroke of halftime against the Saints on Tuesday, and that means Antonio Conte has the full complement of his team to choose from whatever he decides to do for the battle at Merseyside. Diego Costa also seemes to have gotten his mojo back with his brace on Tuesday and that couldn’t have come at a better time considering the task at hand. The Southampton game made it the thirteenth time both Costa and Hazard have been on the score sheet together this season and Everton is one of their thirteen victims. Moses followed up his Wembley display with another assured performance and he should fancy his chances against Leighton Baines on Sunday. Prior to the game on Tuesday, Southampton coach Claude Puel suggested that Oriol Romeu is not too far away from Kante in terms of what both brings to their team but I’m sure he would have a rethink after going over game footage because the Romeu I saw wasn’t close to Kante’s left leg, and that’s taking his goal into consideration. The newly-crowned PFA Player of the Year was almost unplayable.
Last 5 Matches: WLWLW
While we were taking the field against Spurs at Wembley last weekend, Everton was playing out a drab goalless draw at the London Stadium against West Ham. Much of their joy has come from their intimidating home form this year. They have taken points off Spurs, United, City and the Gunners comfortably beating the latter pair 4-0 and 2-1. Liverpool remains the only team to have beaten them at home out of the top six teams this season and that too through a 94th-minute Saido Mane goal. Even though their place in next season’s Europa League is virtually secured, Everton will be up for some revenge following the way they were dispatched at Stamford Bridge earlier in the season. It will be fascinating to see how Koeman lines his team up considering his experiment the last time blew up in his face. Ross Barkley is in his best form of the season playing just behind Lukaku but Koeman might be forced to sacrifice him in favour of more steel in midfield playing Gana and Gareth Barry with Tom Davies instead. Enner Valencia could also be unleashed to minimize Marcos Alonso’s forays forward. Whatever variations Koeman decide to make to his team this is going to be a big challenge for us on the road to the title.
Injuries: Yannick Bolasie (Knee) - Out; Ramiro Funes Mori (ACL) – Out; Seamus Coleman (Broken Leg) – Out; Mo’ Besic (Fitness)- Slight Doubt; Aaron Lennon (Knock)- Slight Doubt; James McCarthy (Hamstring)- Slight Doubt
Last 5 Matches: DWWLD
3 Matchups to Watch
- Luiz vs. Romelu Lukaku: Judging by the PFA Team of the Year this could be tagged the best striker in the league versus the best centre defender in the league. Lukaku is very confident playing at Goodison Park at the moment but David Luiz seemes a lot different from the Luiz that we sent to Paris two seasons ago. Back at the Bridge, Lukaku didn’t have as much as a shot during the entire match but he has transformed into a different player since that game. I’m excited to see how this goes on Sunday.
- Costa vs. Ashley Williams: After his recent troubles Diego Costa seemes to have regained his scoring boots again, and that can't be good for our remaining opponents. However, in Ashley Williams Everton has one of the best central defenders in the league. Costa will surely has his hands full with Williams up against him. The fact is Ashley William's is as good with his feet as he is aerially and he’s also every bit as physical with the best the Premiership has got to offer.
- Kante vs. Idrissa Gueya (Gana): This is the battle of two diminutive and combative midfielders. Gana is the only midfielder in the league to have won more tackles than Kante this season, but judging by Kante's showing against the Saints on Tuesday his all around game seem to be improving as time goes on. His burst into the Southampton box would have made Messi jealous I’m sure. The grass at Goodison might not live to tell the story of this clash of the titans.
For the second consecutive game we will be playing before Spurs even if it’s just by half an hour or less. This is going to be a big challenge but I don’t have any doubt in my mind that this is definitely a winnable three points regardless of Everton’s recent home form. Hazard, Costa, Fabregas and Willian, if he starts, all have a major contributions to make in this game and the remainder of the season. Onwards and Upwards, Blues! And remember to Keep The Blue Flag Flying High!