Stamford Bridge, London
December 4, 2010, 8:30 PM IST
Chelsea, even at the peak of their power in recent seasons, have always found the going hard against typically tenacious Everton sides. With the Champions having suffered an uncharacteristic loss of form in recent games, that has seen undefeated Manchester United vault to the top of the standings, the Blues will not be relishing having to come face to face with a side that has stuck it to them with unfailing consistency over the past few years.
The Blues lost a whopping four points in both clashes against Everton last season, and have only managed to draw the last four games against David Moyes’ side. Everton are going through a terrible run of form themselves having won none of their past five games, and while their record at Stamford Bridge has been decent, they will be licking their lips in anticipation of rubbing salt into the wounds that Sunderland so cruelly inflicted on the champions.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Adding to the little cheer for the genial Italian with the perpetually raised eyebrow, will be the return of talismanic captain John Terry to shore up a leaky central defense. The former English captain seems to have dodged the bullet with that potentially season-ending nerve problem of his. His arrival means Alex will soon be jetting off to Brazil for medical reasons. Chelsea will also welcome back sorely-missed midfield dynamo Michael Essien, who could provide some much needed impetus in what has been a shambolic midfield thus far.
Probable Starting Line-up: Cech, Bosingwa, Terry, Ivanovic, Cole, Malouda, Essien, Mikel, Kalou, Anelka, Drogba.
For he’s a jolly good Fellaini
Everton can call upon the services of Marouane Fellaini who sounded especially dire after his three match ban, but will have to make do without the charismatic Arteta. Also warming the bench, with a slight chance of not featuring in the game, is captain Phil Neville. Rodwell is expected to partner Fellaini in the central midfield, with Yakubu and Cahill to spearhead the Everton attack.
Probable Starting Line-up: Howard, Neville, Jagielka, Distin, Baines, Fellaini, Rodwell, Coleman, Pienaar, Yakubu, Cahill.
Joining Referee Lee Probert in action will be Simon Beck – yes, he of the offside goal fame, a goal that gave Chelsea a crucial 2-1 win over Manchester United. Lest The Blues derive any sort of comfort from this association, they might as well be reminded that it was Beck who gifted van Persie a clearly offside goal, as the Gunners ran out 2-1 winners over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge under the hapless Scolari.
Michael Essien (Chelsea): The man can’t be faulted for playing his heart out in every game. Where he more than bungles up is when he loses his head ocassionally, and makes the team pay for his sins. Essien not so innocuously knocked Chelsea’s campaign out of high gear, with a reckless two footed challenge that earned him a three match suspension in the game against Fulham. Coupled with Chelsea’s list of injuries, and the massive expectations on him, the crime was unpardonable.
Essien has been known to announce his arrival from extended layoffs with a bang. And Everton could rue having to meet The Bison on his return.
Chelsea 2 – 1 Everton
TheHardTackle predicts a result for this one. The odds of the fifth encounter between the two at Stamford Bridge ending in a draw are extremely unlikely. With Essien and Terry back in action, and Everton in with a chance of seeing Jagielka sit this one out, a messy 2-1 win for the defending champions is on the cards.
TheHardTackle’s BLAST FROM THE PAST
Everton 2 -1 Chelsea. The Toffees secured a magnificent come-from behind victory courtesy a brace from Louis Saha, at Goodison Park.