Stamford Bridge, London
February 22, 2014; 12:45 BST
Chelsea FC host Everton FC at Stamford Bridge as they look to extend their lead at the top of the table in this highly anticipated clash. Everton did beat the Blues earlier this season and Jose Mourinho is well aware of the challenges his side are likely to face in this game.
Chelsea are coming into this game on the back of a disappointing result against Manchester City in the FA Cup, where they were outplayed by the home side and were eventually knocked out of the tournament. They will look to return to winning ways in this game against Everton, especially after dropping points against West Bromwich Albion in their last Premier League outing. With Arsenal and Manchester playing later in the day, the London club has the perfect opportunity to put pressure on them with a positive result in this match.
Unlike Chelsea, Everton did progress to the next round of the FA Cup with a comfortable win over Swansea City at home as Lacina Traore, Steven Naismith and Leighton Baines got on the score-sheet. But there has been a slight dip in form for the Merseyside club since the start of this year. Roberto Martinez’s men have won only two of their last six league matches and are yet to win an away fixture this year. But they will be taking heart from the fact that they did beat this Chelsea side earlier this season and will need to be at their best to get something out of this game at Stamford Bridge.
Team news and tactics
Jose Mourinho doesn’t have too many injury concerns at the moment; neither did he have any mid-week Champions League fixture to contain with ahead of this game-week, like most of his rivals. Chelsea have a well-rested squad and Mourinho isn’t required to make too many changes to his side at the moment.
The big team news so far is the return of John Terry, whose last appearance was in the 0-1 win over Manchester City at the Etihad earlier this month. Mourinho has confirmed in his pre-match presser that the English center back will start in this game and has stressed on the importance of having a leader like him back in the team. But the Blues will miss out on David Luiz who is suffering from a muscle injury after the FA Cup fixture against Man City. Mourinho hopes to have him back in time for their upcoming fixture against Galatasaray in the Champions League. Marco van Ginkel remains the only long term injury concern for the London club at the moment.
Mourinho is expected to make only two changes to the side that was knocked out of the FA Cup by Manchester City last week. Oscar, who started that match on the bench, is expected to start in the midfield in place of John Obi Mikel. This means Ramires, who started on the right wing against Man City, will drop back to the pivot alongside Nemanja Matic. Willian, who played in a free-role behind Samuel Eto’o, will move to the right wing in this game.
Jose Mourinho has stressed on Everton’s counter-attacking prowess in his pre-match press conference and he is likely to set up his team accordingly. In Ramires and Matic, Chelsea have enough legs in the midfield to track back and protect their defence when they lose the ball. The Blues’ main concern will be to contain Everton’s full-backs, who contribute immense in attack. Willian and Hazard will have to track Seamus Coleman and Leighton Baines when Everton have possession.
Expected starting line-up (4-2-3-1): Cech (GK); Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta; Ramires, Matic; Willian, Oscar, Hazard; Eto’o
Unlike Jose Mourinho, Roberto Martinez does have a long injury list to contain with at the moment. In fact the Merseyside club’s slight dip in form has coincided with their fitness concerns all around the squad. Romelu Lukaku, Bryan Oviedo, Darron Gibson, Antolin Alcaraz and Arouna Kone remain unavailable for selection due to injuries, while there are doubts about the fitness of Steven Naismith as well. Everton have been affected badly in their striker department due these injuries with Lukaku, Kone and now Naismith struggling with their fitness.
Roberto Martinez is expected to make only one change to the starting line-up he used in the 3-1 win over Swansea City in the FA Cup. Tim Howard will return to the line-up in place of Joel Robles. This will mean that Lacina Traore, who scored against Swansea, is likely to be handed over his Premier League debut against Chelsea.
One of the most intriguing battles in this game will be to see how Seamus Coleman, who has been one of the best right backs in the league this season, deals with Eden Hazard. Coleman’s strength has been in bombing forward and contributing in attack, but against Hazard his defensive qualities will be tested. James McCarthy and Kevin Mirallas will also have to help out Coleman on the left wing, while Gareth Barry will have to keep a close eye on Oscar.
Everton will look to frustrate Chelsea when the home side have the possession and then hit them on the counter-attack as they look to exploit the pace of their attackers like Barkley, Mirallas and Pienaar.
Expected starting line-up (4-2-3-1): Howard (GK); Coleman, Jagielka, Distin, Baines; McCarthy, Barry; Mirallas, Barkley, Pienaar; Traore
- Chelsea have lost none of their last 18 Barclays Premier League home games against Everton (W9 D9).
- The Londoners have won just three of the last 11 Premier League games against the Toffees (W3 D4 L4).
- Everton have scored 10 goals through defenders this season in the Premier League, more than any other side. Their opponents Chelsea have seen six goals from defenders (third most).
- Roberto Martinez has lost all four of his previous Premier League trips to Stamford Bridge as a manager.
- All six of Samuel Eto’o’s Premier League goals for Chelsea have been scored at Stamford Bridge.
Player to watch-out for
Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
Jose Mourinho’s arrival has seemingly taken Eden Hazard to the next level and after a slow start to the season, the Belgium international is proving to be the single biggest threat in Chelsea’s attack. Hazard’s development as a footballer has been meteoric this season as he seems to be more determined, focused and hungry to make his mark. How Seamus Coleman and Everton deal with the 23-year-old in this match might have a big say in the final outcome. He has already scored 12 goals and provided five assists in 25 starts so far in the league, including a memorable hat-trick against Newcastle United recently.
Chelsea 2-1 Everton
It won’t be an easy game for the league leaders. Chelsea might take an early lead in this game, but Everton are sure to fight back. But Chelsea squad depth and Everton’s lack of options upfront might prove to be the difference in the end. Expect the home side to win this by a goal.