Both Everton and Chelsea will see the FA Cup campaign as a good opportunity to salvage the current season having failed to live up to the billing in the Premier League. Taking into account that both sides head into the FA Cup quarter-finals on the back of disappointing defeats, a nervy affair appears on the cards.
Sitting in the bottom half of the Premier League standings with just nine games to go is definitely not where Everton hoped they would be before the season started, and the reality is that Roberto Martinez has failed to take this team to the next level, much like his predecessor David Moyes. The Toffees would occasionally show glimpses of quality, as if to remind us of their potential, but they never quite managed to find the consistency needed to mount a serious top 4 challenge. And with the likes of Leicester City, Southampton and Stoke City seriously improving their fortunes of late, mid table mediocrity appears to be a harsh reality for the Merseyside outfit. Under-par results this term would not be such a big problem if it weren’t for the fact that the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Ross Barkley, Leighton Baines and John Stones are all on the radar of Europe’s top clubs, and they may not be able prepared to stay at Goodison for much longer if the poor results continue. Having effectively ended a bright run of results by losing at home to West Ham after squandering a two-goal lead, the Toffees have little to hope for ahead of the clash with revived Chelsea.
Roberto Martinez is sweating over the fitness of Aaron Lennon, Leighton Baines and Bryan Oviedo, who are all rated doubtful for the Chelsea game.
Kevin Mirallas is suspended after he was sent off against West Ham, but Gareth Barry and Tom Cleverley should be fit to play.
Everybody knows this has been a disappointing season for Premier League holders Chelsea, but interim manager Guus Hiddink and his men have got to be congratulated for the response they showed to all the hardships. The Dutch tactician did well to help the team return to the right track, and even though it appears to be too late to revive their top 4 bid, the Blues can at least head into the new season in decent spirits. Chelsea have been eliminated from the Champions League in midweek, but they battled bravely against star-studded Paris Saint-Germain side and can be proud of their performance considering the circumstances. It was Diego Costa’s injury that changed everything as the Spain international had been on top of his game prior to the substitution, and chances are he will be missed against Everton. It remains to be seen whether Alexandre Pato will be finally given a chance to shine, with the Brazilian yet to make his first appearance for the club. Manager Guus Hiddink is unlikely to make too many changes as he will want his side to get a step closer to lifting the FA Cup trophy.
Both Diego Costa and Eden Hazard are expected to miss out after suffering injuries in midweek, with Bernard Traore, Alexandre Pato and Loic Remy vying for one place up front.
John Terry and Kurt Zouma remain on the sidelines, while Nemanja Matic, Oscar and Ruben Loftus-Cheek are all pushing for starts.
Key Factors to Consider
- Chelsea won five of last eight meetings with Everton (D1 L2)
- Last five meetings between the two sides produced 20 goals in total
- Everton scored three goals in each of last two home fixtures vs Chelsea
- The Toffees lost three of last four home games in the Premiership
- Chelsea won last two Premier League fixtures on the road
Everton are going through a very rough patch at the moment, they have three losses in last four home fixtures and face serious selection problems. Chelsea, on the other hand, have notched up several very good performances in a row and we fully expect them to secure their place in the FA Cup semi-final.
Verdict: Chelsea to qualify
Best Odds: 3/4