Chelsea travel to Goodison Park to complete their season this Sunday. The Blues have already conceded their title to arch-rivals Manchester United. Not having had a season to remember, the Londonders would nevertheless like to finish the season on a high and are expected to throw everything at David Moyes’s side.
Everton are in a win-win situation, sitting pretty at 7th in the table. Moyes’s men have enjoyed a good run of form against the Capital side over the past couple of years. It was the FA Cup final clash a couple of seasons back when Chelsea were able to beat the blue half from Merseyside. Since then Everton have inflicted more wounds to Chelsea than they conceded. Be it Louis Saha’s brilliance in the same fixture a season back, when his brace helped the home side to overturn a one goal deficit or a late equalizer in the reverse fixture of this season to force Chelsea drop further points, Everton have proved to be a constant thorn in Chelsea’s side.
Everton also played spoilsport to Chelsea’s chances of advancing to the next round of this season’s FA cup when they defeated the defending champions in a penalty shootout following a stalemate at the end of normal time. Everton have won their last three final game fixtures and also are the only side to have not suffered back to back defeats in this campaign. Following a loss at West Brom’s they’ll be up for this game to secure the seventh spot as nearest rivals Fulham take on Arsenal on the same day.
Their opponents, Chelsea had a season to forget. Last season’s double winners were off to a flyer, scoring goals for fun but it all dried up since the day assistant manager Ray Wilkins was sacked for reasons unknown and Chelsea gradually descended to an unexpected low in the middle of the season and never looked like making a comeback. At a time when it appeared that Chelsea might give next year’s Champions League participation the miss, a generous gesture from their owner, Abramovich, saw them acquire the services of Fernando Torres and David Luiz in the winter transfer window at a combined amount of a whopping £71m .
The signings, especially the one of Luiz, repaid the trust with a couple of game winning performances and got them back to winning ways. The Blues accumulated 25 points from a possible 27 before they were pitted against rivals Manchester United in what would be title decider at Old Trafford. A loss in that game did no favor to Ancelotti’s already bleak future at the Capital club and rumors abounded about his possible destinations, most of which involve predicting a return to Italy.
Ancelotti would want to end the season on a high with a victory over the Toffees, his first against them . With André Villas-Boas’ domestic and European success with Porto earning him plaudits worldwide, it is to see if Abramovich makes any advances to get yet another one of Porto’s successful manager, once a deputy of the Special Portuguese, or show patience with the Italian gaffer.
Team News and Tactical Brief
The Toffees are likely to miss forward Tim Cahill who is out with a foot injury. Niggling ankle injuries to Fellaini and Saha will keep them out of the last day action as well. Everton failed to overturn the suspension following a redcard incident of Diniyar Bilyalietdinov. Jack Rodwell or Neville will probably replace the towering Belgian whereas Anichebe, who is yet to open his Premier League account, will probably be depended upon to spearhead the attack.
Everton will probably play with a five men midfield with two holding midfielders and a central midfielder in action. The holding midfielders’ role will be to pressurize and close down the narrow Chelsea midfield and keep chasing Chelsea’s holding midfielders throughout the game. The wide midfielders are likely to keep pressure on the Chelsea fullbacks so that they can put a check on the fullbacks’ forward runs and make mistakes by giving away the ball. Everton fullbacks, Hibbert and Baines, are expected to provide sufficient width to their attack by working in tandem with the wide midfielders just like the way they did it in the reverse fixture.
Everton Probable Starting Line-up(4-2-3-1): Howard(GK), Hibbert, Jagielka, Distin, Baines, Neville, Heitinga, Coleman, Osman, Arteta, Anichebe
Carlo Ancelotti knows that this could very well be his last game as a manager of Chelsea. So it is apparent that he would like his team to rise to the occasion for one last time, “If the club decide to change me, then for me it is not a problem. If they feel differently from my opinion you won’t see me cry. I will be upset with the decision of the club but I will find another solution.” Bosingwa will miss out on this game due to injury and so would Benayoun. So Ivanovic will play on the right back position.
Youngster McEachran will get yet another significant outing following an assured display in the middle of the park with a series of ball-winning tackles and an occasional eye for through balls. Another youth graduate Ryan Bertrand, who has already got into the good books of the Blues fans for his assist in a 3-1 victory against the Brums, might get some playing time as well, probably coming off the bench.
Ancelotti is not expected to tweak around with the lineup that played against the Magpies in the last premiership outing. Anelka might just get the nod ahead of Kalou despite a below par show in the previous game. This could very well be his last game for the club as well. Chelsea will play in the 4-3-3 system. To reduce the narrowness of the midfield, Malouda and Anelka could be seen tracking back a lot to see more of the ball and also pressurizing the opposition midfield. Ivanovic and Cole are likely to provide the much needed width and spearhead Chelsea’s attack down both the flanks.
Chelsea Probable Starting Line-up(4-3-3): Cech(GK), Ivanovic, Alex, Terry, Cole, Essien, McEachran, Ramires, Malouda, Torres, Anelka .
The HardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR
Petr Cech (Chelsea FC): Incidentally, this will be Petr Cech’s 313th appearance for the club, highest by an overseas player for the club, overtaking the previous best by club legend Gianfranco Zola. Cech has already bagged the club’s most prestigious individual’s award, Chelsea’s player of the year, for his consistent performance throughout the season. He will be motivated enough to keep a clean sheet on the occasion to make it an even more memorable outing.
The HardTackle’s PREDICTION
Everton 1-1 Chelsea
With the stranglehold Everton have enjoyed of late against their mighty opponents, they will start the game as favorites on home soil. Chelsea’s record have been good in the away games but with an experimental midfield lined up for the game, they may not have the cutting edge to seal the deal. All in all a cagey match with both teams canceling each other out in the midfield.