Goodison Park, Liverpool
Saturday, 30th August 2014; 1730 GMT
Chelsea FC make the 220-mile journey north-west to take on an Everton side off to a stuttering start to their Premier League season at Goodison Park. It is always a tough place to play for any away team, not only because the way the home team attack, but also because of the unwavering support they get from the Toffees faithful – the proverbial 12th man.
Everton come into this one on the back of 2 draws in 2 matches to begin their 2014/15 Premier League campaign. Roberto Martinez has been shrewd in the transfer market as usual, snapping up two ex-Chelsea players who were deemed surplus to requirements at Stamford Bridge. Both Romelu Lukaku and Samuel Eto’o are smart buys from the former Wigan boss. The players not only add depth to the squad but also add experience in the form of the Cameroon international. In their last match, Everton came close to defeating Arsenal only to be denied all three points by a late Olivier Giroud goal. Similarly in their first game, a late Leicester goal denied a win. They will take confidence from the fact that they came so close both times but will need to secure their defence to beat an attacking Chelsea side.
Jose Mourinho’s men come into this match on the back of two wins out of two matches and full of confidence from their impressive showings so far. The first half against Leicester aside, the Blues have been dominating in their performances albeit against the slightly “weaker” teams. Chelsea will look to continue from last season when they had a better record away than at home and conquer Goodison Park – a feat which they have failed to achieve 4 out of the last 5 times they have visited.
Team news and tactics
Everton have their fair share of injury concerns with Steven Pienaar joining the likes of Arouna Kone, Ross Barkley and Bryan Oviedo on the sidelines. Aiden McGeady could replace the injured South African in midfield. Lukaku also limped out of the game against Arsenal with an injured toe, but he is expected to be fit in time for this clash. On-loan Christian Atsu is ineligible to play against his parent club. Long-term absentee Darron Gibson is also available for selection after 10 months out due to a cruciate injury.
Martinez has stated that Eto’o is in line to make his Everton debut against his former club. If he does, he will play in a 4-2-3-1 formation much similar to when he played under Mourinho. Lukaku will be expected to lead the line upfront. The two men in front of defence, expected to be Gareth Barry and James McCarthy, will provide support to the attacking three of Kevin Mirallas, Steven Naismith and Aiden McGeady. Naismith has been relishing the number ten role he has been given recently, scoring in the last two games running. Him along with Lukaku will be looking to fire the home side to victory. The settled back four of Seamus Coleman, Phil Jagielka, Sylvain Distin and Leighton Baines will be expected to start in front of United States world cup cult hero Tim Howard.
Everton have always been a tough cookie to crack at home and Mourinho’s troops will come expecting no less than a fight. Two draws owing to defensive lapses will definitely concern Martinez, especially against the likes of Eden Hazard and Oscar who do not shy away from taking a shot at goal.
Possible lineup (4-2-3-1): Howard (GK); Baines, Jagielka, Distin, Coleman; McCarthy, Barry; Mirallas, Naismith, McGeady; Lukaku
Unless one has been living under a rock for the past few days, the world knows the major injury concern for Chelsea in this match is the fitness of Spanish striker Diego Costa. He pulled a hamstring in training and is expected to miss the game. Mourinho, however, has stated in his press conference today that Costa may be fit enough to start from the bench and has traveled as a part of the squad. With Fernando Torres sealing a loan move to AC Milan, Chelsea could have Didier Drogba as the only fit striker available to start.
Chelsea will line up in the familiar 4-2-3-1 formation with Nemanja Matic and Cesc Fabregas being the two men in front of the back four. In Costa’s absence, Drogba could lead the line for the Blues. Another possibility that Mourinho may adopt is that of playing a “false number nine” in the form of Schurrle as the forward-most player in attack. The rest of the team picks itself with Hazard, Oscar in midfield and John Terry, Gary Cahill, Cesar Azpilicueta along with Branislav Ivanovic expected to start in front of new Chelsea number one Thibaut Courtois.
Two relatively easy games to begin their season with, Chelsea face their first real test of the season away at Goodison Park. In the past few seasons, Everton have been a bogey team for Chelsea having managed to win 4 out of the last 5 league games played at their home ground. Mourinho will be looking to set that right this time around.
Possible lineup (4-2-3-1): Courtois (GK); Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta; Matic, Fabregas; Oscar, Schurrle, Hazard; Drogba
Player to watch out for
Romelu Lukaku (Everton)
The former Chelsea boy will be looking to put one past his former employers. The Belgian did not get his fair share of starts at Chelsea which is why he will be charged up for the game. Mourinho recently praised Lukaku saying that he needed to be the top striker in the team, which is why he left for Everton. Terry and Cahill will have their work cut out marking the tall, strong Belgian.
- Everton’s last 10 games against Chelsea have been extremely competitive with the home side remaining unbeaten in 6 of them, winning four.
- Chelsea are looking for their fifth straight away victory from last season. Their impressive run started after that defeat to Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.
- Steven Naismith scored the only goal at Goodison Park the last time these two sides met.
- Since 2005/6, this is only the fourth time Chelsea will look for three wins to start the season, the last one being in 2012/13.
Everton 1 – 2 Chelsea
It will be a tough away day for Chelsea, but they should come out on top – albeit narrowly – owing to their recent form. Cesc Fabregas has been an important addition to the side and his quick passing may prove to be too much for the slightly under-confident Everton back four.