Chelsea will be looking to make it seven games unbeaten in all competitions with a win over mid-table Everton, who have lost just one of their 10 away Premier League games all season.
Despite twice going ahead in their last match at home to West Bromwich Albion, the hosts arguably did not do enough to fully warrant the three points and were frustrated to eventually have to settle for just the one after conceding a late equaliser. There were definitely signs that the recent improvement under Guus Hiddink is continuing in terms of their attacking play, but defensively the Blues were somewhat lax at times and were made to pay.
For this one they will have their work cut out up against Romelu Lukaku and the technique and trickery of Gerard Deulofeu, with the Spaniard’s personal duel with Cesar Azpilicueta having all the makings of an intriguing one. Hiddink is still not ruling out the prospect of the club facing a battle to stay in the Premier League, but while that is extremely unlikely, that Chelsea are yet to secure back-to-back wins is severely holding them back.
Defensive resilience is not what Everton have been renowned for this term, but they showed it in abundance to claim a hard-earned point away to Manchester City to pull off the rare feat of keeping a clean sheet at the Etihad Stadium. Although fortunate not to concede a late penalty, John Stones provided a glimpse of his potential leadership abilities with an authoritative display, while goalkeeper Tim Howard – whose form has been questioned in recent weeks – was outstanding.
Lukaku will always feel he has a point to prove when coming up against Chelsea, but this could be a game for Ross Barkley to excel. The England midfielder has upped his game of late and has benefitted from assuming a more attacking role in the team which has allowed him to bomb forward more freely. And as West Brom showed on Wednesday, the home defence will be vulnerable if they can get in behind the midfield presence of John Obi Mikel.
Eden Hazard is still unavailable for Chelsea along with Radamel Falcao. Fellow striker Loix Remy should be fit enough to be in contention.
Everton have doubts over the fitness of Tom Cleverley, while Seamus Coleman, Steven Naismith and James McCarthy are all definitely missing.
Last Meeting: A late snap shot from Willian gave Chelsea a dramatic victory over Everton in February 2015 and kept them seven points clear at the top of the Premier League. The Brazilian fired in low via a slight deflection shortly after the visitors’ Gareth Barry had been dismissed for a second yellow card, while Chelsea also had goalkeeper Petr Cech to thank for saving Romelu Lukaku’s point-blank chance.
Played for both – Samuel Eto’o: At long last, the Cameroon star made the move to the Premier League in the summer of 2013 as Chelsea attempted to address their striker shortage, and his only season at the club saw him score nine times in 21 league games including a hat-trick against Manchester United. He spent part of the following campaign at Everton, scoring three goals in 14 outings.
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