Having moved further away from the Champions League positions with a 2-2 draw against West Bromwich, Chelsea will see the Everton game as one of the final chances to stay relatively close to their top 4 rivals. But, defeating rock-solid Toffees will be no easy task, given that they arrive at Stamford Bridge buoyed by another strong performance against Manchester City.
The departure of Jose Mourinho does not appear to have changed much at Stamford Bridge, as the Blues continues to struggle for form, although at least it looks as though disappointing home defeats are a thing of the past. Many believed that back to back wins over Crystal Palace and Scunthorpe, where Chelsea did not concede, would prove the turning point, but the West Bromwich stalemate is enough to suggest the Blues are still not in the clear. The lack of confidence is seriously affecting the team’s attacking performances, with the likes of Costa, Pedro, Willian, Oscar and Hazard all far from the desired form at the moment. In spite of the 2-2 draw with West Brom, the Blues appear to have improved their defensive showings, having kept three straight clean sheets ahead of the midweek fixture. And with Everton very dangerous on the break, Guus Hiddink will insist that his side do not take too many risks going forward.
Eden Hazard, Radamel Falcao Garcia and Christian Atsu all remain on the sidelines, but at least there are no fresh injury worries for Guus Hiddink.
The likes of Nemanja Matic, Kenedy and Ruben Loftus-Cheek are all hoping for recalls following some promising displays of late.
While they had established themselves as one of the league’s best defensive sides over the years, Everton have adopted a more adventurous approach this term, as a result of which they have been a lot more entertaining to watch. The defensive record has obviously suffered from the change of approach, as the team now concede almost 1.5 goals per game on average, but the likes of Lukaku, Barkley and Kone have ensured the Toffees score enough goals to keep the results respectable. The last few games seem to suggest that Roberto Martinez is slowly finding the right balance in the side, hence the four-match unbeaten run. While conceding mere two goals in the process, Everton have beaten Manchester City and Dagenham & Redbridge in domestic Cups, while sharing spoils with Tottenham and Man City in the Premier League. And having now kept two clean sheets in a row, the Toffees head to Stamford Bridge hoping to extend the excellent run against out-of-sorts Chelsea.
Tom Cleverley has stepped up his fitness since picking up an Achilles injury in the 4-3 loss to Stoke City and he is given 50% chances of featuring against Chelsea.
John Stones should return after missing the midweek clash at Etihad, and he is expected to start at right-back since Seamus Coleman remains sidelined.
Key Factors to Consider
- Chelsea kept three clean sheets in last four games
- Everton did not concede in last two fixtures in all competitions
- There were just one goal scored in three of last five meetings between two sides
- Chelsea won last four home games vs Everton
- Three of Everton’s last four fixtures produced under 2.5 goals
Both Chelsea and Everton appear to have patched up their leaky defence and with plenty at stake at Stamford Bridge, neither side are expected to take too many risks going forward. With the Blues also low on confidence, everything suggests chances will be few and far between.
Verdict: Both teams to score – No
Best Odds: 8/11
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