Goodison park, Liverpool
September 12, 2015; 12:45 BST
Chelsea’s title defense couldn’t have had a worse start even if they wanted it to. The Blues have a paltry 4 points from 4 games, with 2 losses – one to Manchester City, and the other to Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge. Jose Mourinho who looks dour even at the best of times, cannot be accused of faking his expression these days.
Critical to Chelsea’s destruction this season has been some shambolic performances at the back. John Terry topped off an uncharacteristically lax start to the season, with a red card and a 3-game ban. Kurt Zouma has performed creditably enough, and Gary Cahill has been left to handle the rest. Ivanovic has been breathtakingly terrible, and Chelsea’s much talked-about plan of landing John Stones fell through.
What’s worse is the Blues now face the team that denied them the lifeline they so desperately sought. Everton haven’t had the brightest of starts either, but have signaled their intent in holding on to Stones. Unwilling to give an inch off the field, Martinez is unlikely to show Mourinho any kindness on it either.
Team News, Tactics & Lineups
Martinez has a bit of a mixed bag as far as the squad available to him goes. Tom Cleverley could be out for 2 months, because of an ankle ligament tear. But he does have new man Aaron Lennon fit and raring to go, and went on record praising John Stones for his maturity while performing for England. Holding on to Stones may have been the best bit of business Everton have done this season, and considering Diego Costa has only put one goal past the young English defender, the tussle between these two stars of the game is delicately poised.
Lukaku will also have good reason to one-up his former teammates at Chelsea, and a lethal combination with Ross Barkley could hurt the defending champions. In Tim Howard, Everton have a star performer – one whose heroics almost single-handedly got them a point against a superior Tottenham side. Everton may have lost their earlier game to Manchester City, but did hold the league leaders scoreless for a substantial portion of the game.
They may have fallen to the attacking talent at Pellegrini’s talent, but Chelsea’s current form offers them a far less potent threat. If the Toffees close out the spaces the Blues love to operate in, Mourinho’s men could be in for a painful night.
Probable Starting Lineup (4-2-3-1): Howard(GK); Coleman, Jagielka, Stones, Oviedo; McCarthy, Barry; Mirallas, Barkley, Kone; Lukaku
Chelsea will have John Terry back at the helm, but have reportedly suffered a massive blow with Thibaut Courtois facing a two month-long wait on the sidelines with a knee injury. The Blues do have Asmir Begovic waiting in the rafters, and if the defense performs with aplomb, the Belgian’s absence should go relatively unnoticed. Of particular interest will be what action Jose Mourinho decides to take with Branislav Ivanovic.
The Serbian has performed substantially below par, and given he had been one of Chelsea’s stand out performers in the past, his dramatic loss of form has been hard to explain. With Baba Rahman in the team, and available to start, Mourinho could be tempted to let Azpilicueta return to his favored right-back spot.
Equally important will be how Fabregas lines up in what Chelsea fans hope will be a new-look line-up. The Spaniard seems to have lost a yard of pace, and in a retreated role has been cannon fodder for opposing midfielders. With Oscar out due to injury, the Blues will have to rely on a lackluster Matic to keep some semblance of sanity in the middle of the field. Chelsea’s sole bright spot has been Pedro, who has performed just as a genius should, while his fellow attackers – Hazard and Costa – have done themselves no favors.
Expect Zouma to feature in midfield, if only to bolster Chelsea’s ailing back four, and Fabregas to feature more prominently in an advanced role.
Probable Starting Lineup (4-2-3-1): Begovic(GK); Rahman, Terry, Cahill, Azpilicueta; Matic, Zouma, Fabregas; Hazard, Costa, Pedro
- Chelsea won this fixture last season in a thrilling 6-3 encounter
- Everton have won 4 of their last 6 games against the Blues at Goodison Park
- Everton have not scored in their last two games
- Chelsea have made the worst start to a Premier League season of any defending champion
Player to watch out for
John Stones (Everton)
Stones has no option but to put in a match-defining performance tomorrow. After his shift with England, a dip in performance for his club will see the pundits dissect it for a supposed lack of commitment to the Toffees. If he puts in a terrific performance, expect the rumor mill to go into overdrive about an eventual move to Chelsea considering the Blues penchant to buy just about anyone who gives them a hard time.
. Everton 1-0 Chelsea
Shades of May 2006 abound for the Blues, when they last lost two consecutive Premier League games under Mourinho. Everton have always been a difficult proposition for Chelsea at Goodison Park, and with the disarray in the Blues squad, there is no reason to expect the Toffees to suddenly implode. Expect a tight, heavily-marked game, with Everton securing the win with a second-half goal, and surviving waves of ensuing Chelsea assaults on goal.