Everton Club Focus – Saha backed to find the net with Chelsea in his sights

As the latest round of international fixtures draws to a close and attention returns to the Premier League, a series of Everton figures have publicly backed striker Louis Saha to rediscover his best form ahead of the Toffees’ trip to Chelsea, the side’s opponents for some of the most memorable moments of last season.

From Jermaine Beckford’s late header in the league encounter at Stamford Bridge that earned Everton a point, to Leighton Baines’ even later free-kick in the FA Cup soon after to send the game to a penalty shootout, the Merseyside Blues fared extremely well against their London counterparts in 2010-11. Baines’ stunning set-piece set the table for Phil Neville to score the winning spot kick and put Everton into the next round, while Beckford bettered himself in the Goodison Park meeting between the two sides by scoring the winning goal from a sensational run and lob over Petr Cech. In their four meetings last season, Everton won two and drew two against the billionaire-backed outfit.

Everton achieved their success against Chelsea last season with only a minimal contribution from Saha, who played in only two of the fixtures with the then-Carlo Ancelotti led side, scoring in the home FA Cup draw and playing just short of an hour in the Premier League clash on Chelsea’s turf. The interrupted nature of Saha’s season – playing just 26 of a possible 44 games – did not actually hamper the Frenchman’s form too much. Saha still plundered 10 goals, only five fewer than the year previously when he managed 15 goals in 40 appearances. It must however be noted that Saha’s tally for the last campaign is bolstered by four goals in one game against Blackpool, and that the 33-year-old only found the net once, against Huddersfield Town in the League Cup, before January 2011.

The 2011-12 season has not been kind to Saha. After a lack of fitness restricted him to appearances off the bench early on, his muted-but-unacceptable Twitter rant after being left out of the match day squad further postponed his impact, which was only seen in flashes after Saha’s return to the fold in defeat to Manchester City and Liverpool. Against the former, Saha looked sharp and should have been awarded a free-kick on the edge of the City box after a Vincent Kompany body-check, while his performance against the latter was compromised by the first half dismissal of Jack Rodwell and the lack of ambition subsequently forced upon the Toffees. Even still, Saha managed a handful of efforts that troubled Pepe Reina both before and after Rodwell saw red, but the clash with Chelsea, where Saha may feature from the outset for only the second time this season, will be another difficult challenge.

Nevertheless, Saha has occasionally excelled against John Terry. Everton defeated Chelsea 2-1 at Goodison Park in February 2010 and, on that evening, Saha scored both goals and looked every inch the world class striker he may have been had injuries not gotten in the way. A repeat performance of the one that left Terry flailing would put Saha’s season firmly back on track.

See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Chelsea v Everton

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