Chelsea looked to be coasting to the Premier League title a few weeks ago. The Blues had been top of the table for a large chunk of the campaign and looked uncatchable.
However, defeats against Crystal Palace and Manchester United have seen the Blues lead at the top of the table to second place Tottenham down cut to just four points.
On Sunday afternoon they face a potentially perilous trip to Everton’s Goodison Park.
Fortress Goodison Park
Everton have turned Goodison Park into a wasteland for visiting teams. Only Liverpool have won at the grand old stadium in the top-flight this season, and they needed a stoppage-time winner to take home three points.
Only the top two Tottenham and Chelsea have better home records in the English top-flight this season. Eight straight home wins for the Toffees and three goals scored in seven of those eight wins suggest Ronald Koeman’s side love their home comforts.
When Everton have been at their best in recent years it has been at Goodison Park, as the likes of Arsenal and Manchester City have found out to their peril this season.
Chelsea will see this clash as their toughest remaining game this season. If they can come out of this clash with three points it will put massive pressure on second-place Tottenham, who play Arsenal in the north London derby later in the afternoon.
Chelsea gets the job done (usually)
Chelsea looked confident against Southampton in the 4-2 midweek victory. Striker Diego Costa scored twice after struggling for goals and form of late. Belgian winger Eden Hazard was once again on the scoresheet.
For much of the season, the Blues have looked cool and composed. They have suffered bumps along the way like the defeats at both Tottenham and Liverpool. However, on the whole, Conte’s side have done what they have needed to pick up maximum points.
Chelsea are a team that is capable of grinding out results, while also sparkling through the likes of Hazard and Costa. The Blues will need those battling qualities at Goodison. The Toffees are no longer the physical side they once were in previous years.
However, the likes of Gareth Barry, Idrissa Gueye and Morgan Schneiderlin are not opposed to a tackle or two. It will be particularly interesting to see the battle between Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante and Gueye, who has been likened to the Frenchman in playing style by some.
Senegal international Gueye has been one of the bargains of the campaign. The little midfielder has been in top form this season in the middle of the park for the Toffees.
Chelsea favourites for the victory
Despite Everton’s stellar home form this season, the bookmakers believe that Chelsea are favourites to win this game and have them at odds of evens to come away from Merseyside with a victory.
Those odds are obviously based on the fact that Chelsea are top of the table. However, make no mistake about it Everton will not be easy opponents for the Blues.
One major factor in this clash could be Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku. The former Chelsea striker is the Premier League’s top scorer with 24 goals this season. His goals have led to reported interest in Chelsea re-signing the big striker.
Lukaku has been criticised for not turning up against the big teams. However, the stats suggest that Lukaku has been more effective against the top six teams than any of his counterparts from the other top-seven clubs.
The 24-year-old will have a point to prove in this clash. Whether that be a come-and-get-me plea with his performance or a why did you sell me? Lukaku could have a big say in this game and with it the title race.
Earlier this season Chelsea produced possibly their best all-around display of the campaign as they hammered Everton 5-0 at Stamford Bridge. Everton boss Koeman attempted to match the Blues formation and failed dismally.
However, since then the Toffees have developed a system and a confidence of their own. It is highly unlikely Koeman will be changing to suit Chelsea this time around.
The Dutchman is more likely to send his team out to play their normal style and attempt to beat Chelsea that way, such is the confidence in the Toffees camp.
Everton are certainly a different team to the one that was mauled at the Bridge. The Merseysiders will represent a big obstacle to Chelsea’s charge to the title.
Will Everton derail Chelsea at Goodison Park?
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