Defending champions Chelsea host Ronald Koeman’s Everton today, as they look for their first victory at Stamford Bridge this season.
Antonio Conte will still be without the services of captain Gary Cahill, who is serving his three-match suspension. Eden Hazard is most likely set to miss out as he isn’t fully fit. He featured in the Chelsea reserves’ 0-3 loss against Everton last night and limped off after a rash tackle.
In his pre-match press conference, Conte insisted that it was crucial to not rush Hazard into the starting XI: “If someone thinks to accelerate the process, it’s not the right way. It’s a great mistake. We must pay great attention to not make mistakes at this moment.”
Chelsea will certainly be boosted by the return of Cesc Fabregas, who missed last week’s London derby against Tottenham Hotspur as he was a serving a one-match suspension. Besides Hazard, Conte has no new injury concerns for today’s clash against Everton.
With the return of Fabregas, Conte will have another option for his midfield. Tiemoue Bakayoko started and played 94 minutes last week at Wembley and while the Frenchman did manage to hold his own, the lack of fitness and match rust was evident.
Pedro, who returned from injury and made a 12 minute cameo in last week’s victory against Tottenham Hotspur where he provided the assist for the match winner, should also be fully fit now and be contention to start the match alongside Willian and Alvaro Morata in Chelsea’s attack.
The returns of Pedro and Fabregas could result in Conte switching to a familiar 3-4-3 after fielding a far more defensive a 3-5-2 formation last week, with 6 defenders. While it did get them all 3 points, Conte will hope for a far more assured and convincing performance this time around.
Besides their vast injury list, Ronald Koeman will also have to deal with the fact that this is Everton’s third match in the space of seven days. The Toffees faced a trip to Manchester City on Monday and one to Croatia to face Hadjuk Split on Thursday, both of which ended in 1-1 draws.
The Merseysiders will be without the services of midfielders Yannick Bolasie and Davy Klaassen, defenders Seamus Coleman and Ramiro Funes Mori. According to Everton’s official site, Idrissa Gueye will be subject to late fitness assessment and Sandro Ramirez’s participation seems unlikely as well.
Morgan Schneiderlin will miss this tie due to suspension, however Muhamed Besic returns to contention and will be available for selection today. Ross Barkley, who has been linked with a move to Chelsea this summer, is expected to miss this tie tas he is still recovering from a hamstring injury.
In this fixture last season, the Blues demolished Everton 5-0. While a similar scoreline seems highly unlikely, it will be interesting to see how the Toffees fare in their third away trip in 7 days with around 8 players expected to miss out.