After the shock of Fabio Capello’s resignation as England manager on Wednesday, attention returns to the Premier League this weekend. With Everton hosting one of the division’s most closely followed teams in Chelsea, the Toffees will be sharing the spotlight.
The travails of Andre Villas-Boas have been a storied saga and David Moyes has the chance to deal a blow to the Portuguese similar to the one handed out to Roberto Mancini just over a week ago. With Chelsea struggling to fulfil expectations of a Premier League title challenge, the opportunity is there for Everton to take three points from the West London Blues. The omens are indeed good for Everton, as the Toffees have not lost to Chelsea at Goodison Park in the league since April 2008. The Carling Cup meeting between the two sides on Everton’s ground earlier in the season needed extra time and a Royston Drenthe red card before it would swing the way of the visitors. That game also saw Chelsea receive an unconventional boost when Petr Cech replaced the sent off Ross Turnbull – a rare instance of a team’s line-up drastically improving once the goalkeeper is dismissed.
The 1-1 draw against Wigan Athletic a week ago was a mixed bag for Everton. The second debut of Steven Pienaar was well received as the South African winger turned in a performance so well-rounded it was like he had never been away. Nikica Jelavic also appeared as he begins the process of settling in south of the border, while Victor Anichebe’s fine header hinted at the quality the Nigerian has to produce on a regular basis. Conversely, failing to beat the bottom side of the Premier League just days after beating the side at the top, and going a goal down in the process – albeit in freakish circumstances – could hardly be described as positive. The match, an unattractive spectacle, also featured a substitution to give ammunition to those supporters who feel Moyes is too defensive – at half-time the manager withdrew the hurt Tim Cahill in favour of Phil Neville, deciding against partnering Jelavic with Denis Stracqualursi and instead pushing Marouane Fellaini further forward.
If such retrograde substitutions are perplexing against Wigan they are positively expected against a side the calibre of Chelsea. Yet at Goodison, against a Chelsea side that have been vulnerable this season and are likely to miss the outfield spine of the side – John Terry and Frank Lampard are both struggling for fitness – and with Jelavic waiting for a home debut, the situation may never be better to take the game to Villas-Boas’ team. A Stracqualursi-Jelavic partnership may lack in Premier League experience and, in the Argentine’s case, finesse, but it would also be Everton’s best hope of unsettling Chelsea. The prospect of the burly Stracqualursi hustling David Luiz is certainly one to pique the interest. Whether Moyes breaks with the enduring habit of a lone striker at almost all times remains to be seen, but Everton certainly have the chance to steal Chelsea’s spotlight.
See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Everton