Everton vs Chelsea preview: Gloves off as Roberto and Jose prepare for round four
John Stones’ current employers take on John Stones’ future employers.
- Spurs 0-0 Everton (Prem)
- Barnsley 3-5e Everton (LC)
- Everton 0-2 Man City (Prem)
- So’ton 0-3 Everton (Prem)
- Everton 2-2 Watford (Prem)
- Chelsea 1-2 Palace (Prem)
- WBA 2-3 Chelsea (Prem)
- Man City 3-0 Chelsea (Prem)
- Chelsea 2-2 Swansea (Prem)
- Chelsea 0-1 Fiorentina (F)
Despite being many people’s tip for the title this term, Chelsea travel to Goodison Park knowing that anything less than three points could be fatal to their chances of retaining the Premier League crown they won so convincingly last time out. A 2-2 draw with Swansea and defeats to Manchester City and Crystal Palace have left the Blues eight points behind Manuel Pellegrini’s table-toppers, a sizeable deficit even at this early stage of the campaign.
Jose Mourinho was uncharacteristically subdued following his side’s 2-1 loss to Palace two weeks ago; all does not seem well with the Portuguese at present. Cracks seemed to have reappeared in his relationship with the club’s hierarchy, and while Mourinho’s job is patently not under threat – at least not from those above him – the pressure on his team would be ratcheted up another notch were they to slip up again on Saturday.
There are plenty of question marks relating purely to on-field matters, too. Many of the key players in Chelsea’s triumphant season last term have been below par so far in 2015/16, Nemanja Matic, Branislav Ivanovic, Cesc Fabregas, Diego Costa, Eden Hazard and John Terry all concurrently suffering dips in performance levels. Pedro has looked lively since signing from Barcelona and Cesar Azpilicueta has been as solid as ever, but most of the champions’ major stars seem to have suddenly lost their mojo.
Everton have endured a mixed start to the campaign, with two draws, one victory and one defeat in their first four encounters.
The Toffees’ trio of youngsters; Stones, Romelu Lukaku and Ross Barkley, have all put in some fine displays up to now, with the former duo presumably especially keen to impress against this weekend’s visitors to the north-west. With Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal to come in their next six outings – not to mention tricky trips to Swansea and West Bromwich Albion – Everton could find themselves languishing in the bottom half of the table by the end of October. While the sheer talent within Chelsea’s ranks means they will go into Saturday’s clash as underdogs, Roberto Martinez and the club’s fans may well consider this the ideal time to play an out-of-form side who will surely improve as the season goes on.
Tom Cleverley is out of action for up to two months after damaging his ankle ligaments against Tottenham just before the international break, with the midfielder joining Leighton Baines, Darron Gibson, Steven Pienaar and Tony Hibbert on the sidelines. Bryan Oviedo and Brendan Galloway are both hoping to be in contention again after knee problems, as is Aaron Lennon following his deadline-day switch from Spurs. Mourinho has no injury worries ahead of the trip to Merseyside, with Oscar thought to have recovered from his respective injury. Terry is back from a one-game ban after his sending-off in the 3-2 win at West Brom.
Key battle: James McCarthy vs Cesc Fabregas
It's been a difficult start to the campaign for Cesc, creating little for his attacking team-mates and contributing even less to his team’s defensive efforts. Much of the scrutiny of the nine top-flight goals Chelsea have already conceded has fallen on the back four, but it is arguably the lack of protection from Fabregas and Matic in front of them that has been the biggest problem. The Spain international, not blessed with great pace nor energy, has been overrun by various opponents in the Blues' opening four matches. McCarthy, a non-stop runner who provides drive and thrust in the Everton engine room, will fancy his chances of becoming the latest adversary to get the better of the former Arsenal man.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Chelsea 1-0 Everton (PL, Feb 15)
- Everton 3-6 Chelsea (PL, Aug 14)
- Chelsea 1-0 Everton (PL, Feb 14)
- Everton 1-0 Chelsea (PL, Sep 13)
- Chelsea 2-1 Everton (PL, May 13)
Martinez and Mourinho clashed in the summer over Chelsea’s pursuit of Stones, with the Everton boss highly critical of his counterpart’s tactics. “There is the disappointment of a club making a statement to the press and making it openly,” Martinez said. “I don’t think we’d do it and speak about a player. We are not a club that needs to be worried about what other clubs put through the press.” Mourinho defended his actions, insisting that Chelsea had done nothing wrong by submitting a bid for a player while the transfer window was open.
His dismissal of Everton as a “smaller club” in his response should ensure he receives a feisty reception. Martinez and Mourinho also quarrelled following both league encounters last season. The Spaniard was unhappy at Diego Costa’s antics when Chelsea ran out 6-3 winners last August, while he also complained about Mourinho’s men’s propensity to surround the referee in the reverse fixture in February. If relations between the pair are to continue in the same vein, there could be fireworks on the touchline.
Facts and figures
- Everton have won just 1 of their last 6 league encounters with Chelsea, losing each of the other 5.
- Eden Hazard has failed to score in any of his last 7 Premier League games, the second-longest goal drought of his career.
- Chelsea have conceded 2+ goals in 4 consecutive games for the first time since December 2006.
More FFT Stats Zone facts
Honours even in a tight, tense affair. 1-1.