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Prediction: Chelsea vs Everton

Premier League leaders Chelsea will be desperate to return to winning ways when they take on Everton following back to back setbacks against West Brom and Manchester City. The Toffees did well to reach the FA Cup quarter-finals, but lose this match and they could be effectively out of the top 4 race in the Premiership.

Even with Jose Mourinho using every opportunity to downplay his side’s title chances, Chelsea are in pole position at the moment and considered by many the favourites for the trophy. Following impressive displays against Manchester City and Newcastle, the Blues missed a great chance to cement the first place in the standings, having conceded a late equalizer against West Brom, before also crashing out of the FA Cup by losing at Etihad. Nevertheless, it is highly unlikely Jose Mourinho will be too concerned by the FA Cup exit especially with two important games coming up. While Chelsea host Everton in the league on Sunday, they face Galatasaray away four days later as their Champions League campaign resumes, so no doubt the Portuguese manager will have one eye on the match in Istanbul. That is not to say that he will not field his strongest line-up against the Toffees, but a cautious, low-tempo approach appears on the cards. There are still doubts over the fitness of John Terry as he battles a muscle problem, but Gary Cahill is expected to return. Oscar is set to be recalled after he was rested at Etihad.

Given the fierce competition for top 4 places, Everton have done well to remain in contention for the final Champions League berth, but it looks as though Roberto Martinez’s side will not be able to end a long wait for a top 4 finish. It is, therefore, not surprising that the Toffees are hoping to make the most of their FA Cup campaign, with quarter-final clash against Arsenal likely to prove a highly entertaining affair. League defeats to Liverpool and Tottenham have seriously damaged team’s Champions League hopes, but another victory over Chelsea would be a perfect way to get their bid back on track. The Toffees ran out 1-0 winners in a reverse fixture back in September and everything suggests we will see another tight game, albeit with a different winner. Top scorer Romelu Lukaku is going to be sorely missed as he is both injured and ineligible to face his parent club, but January signing Lacina Traore could start after impressive against Swansea. Antolin Alcaraz is back in full training, but Bryan Oviedo, Arouna Kone and Darron Gibson are long-term casualties.

Conclusion

Given the poor run of form, Chelsea will not have an easy job against one of league’s strongest defences, especially with the Blues strikers misfiring at the moment. Everton will be without their top scorer and are unlikely to go all guns blazing at their opponents, which is enough to suggest we should see a low-scoring match.

Verdict: Under 2.5 goals

Best Odds: 17/20

Bookmaker: bet365

Fri 21 February, 2014
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