Following the international break, Chelsea will be determined to improve on their none too exceptional start to the defence of their Premier League title as they face Everton in Saturday’s early kick-off.
The hosts will be reasonably content to have taken five points from what looked a tough opening four fixtures. They had goalkeeper Tim Howard to thank for earning a point in their last game at Tottenham, with the American stopper making several key saves to preserve a point in a match where his teammates failed to create many chances at the other end, with Romelu Lukaku having his quietest game of the season so far.
It was a surprise not to see Gerard Deulofeu play more of a central role in North London, especially given his dynamism and sheer unpredictability when deployed on either flank. He was arguably the most significant signing of what has been an uneventful summer in the transfer market for Everton in terms of bringing players in, but keeping hold of defender John Stones was what gained many of the headlines, and his presence here against the club that courted him so publically will only see him remain under the spotlight.
There may be several reasons why Chelsea have been slow out of the blocks and only have four points from as many outings, but the most obvious difference from last season is that the level of performance of several first-team players has dropped. For several years a lynchpin at the back, Branislav Ivanovic now finds himself being targeted by opposition wingers as a possible weak link, and it certainly worked for an admirably adventurous Crystal Palace side last time out.
It may force Jose Mourinho into a tactical switch for this game or even a change of personnel as he looks to get his side going. Seeing Radamel Falcao head in his first Chelsea goal was a rare bright spot from what turned out to be only the manager’s second home defeat in the league as Chelsea boss. He will now be aching for his side to return to something close to the level which brought them an incredible six goals in this fixture just over a year ago.
Tom Cleverley is out for Everton, who could hand debuts to Ramiro Funes Mori and Leandro Rodriguez. Meanwhile, Bryan Oviedo is doubtful, but Brendan Galloway should return after missing out at Tottenham through injury.
Asmir Begovic is set for a long run in the Chelsea team with Thibaut Courtois requiring knee surgery. Oscar is also unavailable, but captain John Terry returns from suspension.
Last Meeting: There were goals from start to finish as Chelsea claimed a 6-3 victory in a classic encounter. They were two goals up within just three minutes as Diego Costa and Branislav Ivanovic capitalised on poor defending, before Kevin Mirallas brought the home side back into it on the stroke of half-time.
The second period saw the game turn into a crazy affair as soon as Seamus Coleman put through his own net, with goals from Nemanja Matic, Ramires and Costa seeing Chelsea to all three points, in between goals for Everton scored by Steven Naismith and debutant Samuel Eto’o.
Played for both – Mark Hughes: The current Stoke City boss spent three years at Chelsea between 1995 and 1998, playing a key role in helping them return to being a force in English football, winning the FA Cup in 1997 and scoring 25 goals in 95 league games. His time at Everton in 2000 was much more short lived, scoring once in 18 outings as he approached the end of his career.
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