Stamford Bridge, London
May 19, 2013; 16:00 GMT
When Chelsea take on Everton at Stamford Bridge in the last game of the season, it will be the final occasion that Rafa Benitez and David Moyes would be in-charge of their respective sides. While interim-manager Rafa would surely vacate the seat for someone (Mourinho, in all likelihood) to come in, Moyes would bid adieu to the club he has religiously served for the last 11 years, as he’s set to take over the Manchester United job in the summer.
Rafa’s time at Chelsea can only be described as tumultuous. His time at Liverpool and the animosity that was set in stone then wasn’t forgotten by a majority of the fanbase, who let no stone unturned to show the manager that he wasn’t welcome at the Bridge, especially as news of a possible arrival of the greatest manager in their history started gathering momentum. To his credit, Rafa remained mostly unaffected by all this and carried on with his job in a focused manner, finally achieving the targets that were set before him.
Few fans and pundits, however, gave him credit wherever he was due. His management of the squad, keeping the players as fresh as he possibly could in the face of an insane amount of games (first teams were often spot on, even if his substitutions weren’t), his handling on David Luiz and Fernando Torres in particular, and the fact the he secured a Champions League position while retaining the winning mentality (Europa League) of the club, will remain his contributions and he must be given credit for the same.
David Moyes, on the other hand, will leave the job which he performed admirably for over a decade. He didn’t have unlimited resources, yet his squads built on a minimal budget always remained a stubborn lot, refusing to give up and often carving out results along the way. His team only finished outside the top half of the table twice in his 10 full seasons in Merseyside and are poised to finish above Liverpool for the second season running, being in the sixth position presently. Everton fans will surely be saddened by the departure of their manager, whom they so love, but surely they’ll take pride in the fact that Manchester United considered his work at Everton worthy enough to take the top job at Old Trafford.
Team News and Tactical Brief
John Terry failed to recover from his injury ahead of the Europa League final and remains doubtful for the game against Everton, while Hazard, Romeu and Mikel and Bertrand are not available for selection because of their respective injuries. Rafa will also not be able to field Ramires as the Brazilian is suspended for the last game.
Shape of the team is expected to remain the same (4-2-3-1), with Cech in goal and Azpilicueta, Cahill, Luiz and Cole in defence. The manager may just give Chelsea’s Young Player of the Year, Nathan Ake, a chance to start the game alongside the legendary Frank Lampard in central midfield. Oscar, Moses and Mata, who was recently voted as Chelsea’s Player of the Year, are likely to form the the third band of attack, behind Demba Ba.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1): Cech; Azpilicueta, Cahill, Luiz, Cole; Ake, Lampard; Oscar, Mata, Moses; Ba
Philip Neville will not be able to take the field in his last game in an Everton shirt, because of a knee injury, while Leon Osman remains unavailable for selection this weekend.
In a 4-4-1-1 formation, Howard will start in goal, with Coleman and Baines taking their positions at right and left back respectively and Jagielka and Distin forming the centre of defence. Mirallas, on the right wing, and Pienaar, on the left, will be deployed on the flanks, with Gibson and Barkley in central midfield. Ahead of them, Fellaini will play behind Anichebe and look to create hovoc in the Chelsea box.
Everton’s left flank may perhaps determine the outcome of the game, as the combined threat posed by Pienaar and Baines may prove too much for Azpilicueta to handle, despite the likelihood of Rafa securing the flank by positioning the industrious Moses ahead of the Spaniard to keep the Everton duo in check.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-4-1-1): Howard; Coleman, Jagielka, Distin, Baines; Gibson, Barkley, Pienaar, Mirallas; Fellaini; Anichebe
- Chelsea are undefeated in 30 of their last 33 matches against Everton in all competitions.
- Everton have kept a clean sheet in 5 of their last 6 matches in the Premier League.
- Everton have failed to score in 5 of their last 7 away matches in the Premier League.
- Chelsea have scored at least 2 goals in 7 of their last 8 home matches in the Premier League.
- Chelsea are undefeated in their last 8 home matches in the Premier League.
Player To Watch Out For
Marouane Fellaini (Everton)
The Belgian powerhouse has scored 11 goals, in addition to his 5 assists this season, and this being the last opportunity to show his suitors what he’s capable of before the transfer window opens, Fellaini may just deliver a stellar show of power and skill. He had missed the reverse fixture wherein Everton were defeated and having hinted at a potential departure earlier, he may just prove to hot to handle for the Chelsea defence from his advanced midfield position. His likely destination remains Stamford Bridge, if he doesn’t follow his boss to Old Trafford.
Chelsea 1-2 Everton
Chelsea have already secured a Champions League place and have won the Europa League in the midweek, so potentially they have little to play for, other than finishing the season on a strong note. While, this will be David Moyes last game in-charge of Everton, so the visitors have all the more reason to go out and claim a win, thereby giving their long-serving boss a fitting farewell.
There, however, remains a possibility of a play-off game between Chelsea and Arsenal, if they two clubs presently separated by 2 points end at same points, goal difference and goals scored. If news of interest starts pouring in from Arsenal’s game against Newcastle, we might see a change in Chelsea approach as the game progresses.