Chelsea will be aiming to continue their unbeaten start to the season when they welcome Everton to Stamford Bridge on Sunday evening

The bigwigs of English football will be in action on Sunday, with major implications on the title race. One of these games will feature Chelsea, who can see Maurizio Sarri break the Premier League record of the longest unbeaten start in the competition by a manager, when they play hosts to Everton at Stamford Bridge.

The Blues have taken to Maurizio Sarri’s ways like fish to water, which reflects in their unbeaten start to the season. In fact, Chelsea are the only English outfit that are yet to lose a game across all competitions this season, which invariably reflects in the position they find themselves in in the Premier League – second on the table, only two points behind Manchester City.

Everton, on the other hand, have been a little hit and miss under the tutelage of Marco Silva, who still hasn’t stamped his authority at Goodison Park so far. The big pitfall in the first three months of his reign has been the Toffees’ inability to string together a healthy run of positive results. And, the game against Chelsea could prove to be another little setback.

The corresponding fixture last season had yielded a comfortable 2-0 win for Chelsea, with Alvaro Morata and Cesc Fabregas finding the back of the net. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the Premier League encounter.

Team News & Tactics

Chelsea

Chelsea remain unbeaten after the first three months of the season. (Photo by Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP/Getty Images)

Chelsea remain unbeaten after the first three months of the season. (Photo by Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP/Getty Images)

Maurizio Sarri has a near clean bill of health to boast of ahead of the visit of Everton. On Sunday, Cesc Fabregas (illness) and Ruben Loftus-Cheek (back) will be the only players whose availability will be in doubt. With the duo not being regulars, the manager will not be sweating too much.

The main focus of Sarri’s attention will be Eden Hazard, who proved his fitness in the Europa League tie against BATE Borisov earlier this week, albeit in a rather subdued performance. The Belgian should be in the starting lineup against Everton as well, although the Chelsea boss should manage his minutes to an extent.

Meanwhile, the likes of David Luiz, Marcos Alonso, Antonio Rudiger, Cesar Azpilicueta and Alvaro Morata were rested for the midweek European tie, and should slot back into the starting lineup. Morata could face some competition from Olivier Giroud, who signalled a return to form against BATE Borisov.

But, the Spaniard’s own resurgent run – he has four goals in his last four game – means he should start. N’Golo Kante was an unused substitute in the Europa League tie and should start in the middle of the park as well, although Sarri would hope for an improved showing from the Frenchman, who has blown hot and cold this season so far.

The man under the spotlight though, will be Ross Barkley, who is set to play against former side Everton for the first time since joining Chelsea earlier this year. The Englishman has been enjoying an upturn in form and fortunes under Sarri, and will be eager to make a mark against his boyhood club. Completing the lineup at the back, will be Kepa Arrizabalaga, who has been solid in goal for the Blues.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Kepa; Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Luiz, Alonso; Kante, Jorginho, Barkley; Willian, Morata, Hazard

Chelsea

Everton

Marco Silva does not have any major long-term injuries hampering his preparations for the trip to Stamford Bridge. But, the Everton boss does have a couple of concerns to deal with, in addition to a few minor issues.

The big cause for concern is Richarlison, who played the second half against Brighton and Hove Albion last weekend with pain in his foot due to the minor ankle injury he had sustained earlier in the match. With the Brazilian finally starting to take to his new role of a striker, Silva will be sweating over his fitness in the hours leading to the Chelsea game.

Another slight issue is the absence of Kurt Zouma, who is ineligible to face Chelsea, although that could mean Yerry Mina finally makes his debut for Everton. Meanwhile, the likes of Leighton Baines (illness), and Jonjoe Kenny (knock) are slight doubts, while James McCarthy continues building his fitness after recovering from his horrific leg injury.

Baines’ absence is not worrisome as Lucas Digne has adapted well to life at Everton, which is exactly what Silva will hope from Yerry Mina when he links up alongside Michael Keane at the heart of the defence. On the right flank, the marauding Seamus Coleman will look to put Marcos Alonso under pressure.

Idrissa Gueye and Andre Gomes have stitched up an able midfield partnership, and will provide a tenacious presence in the middle of the park. Upfront, Theo Walcott and Bernard will be the wide men, while Gylfi Sigurdsson should be the creator-in-chief for Everton. But, the main concern will be whether Richarlison is fit enough to start, or if Cenk Tosun fills in for him.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Pickford; Coleman, Keane, Mina, Digne; Gueye, Gomes; Walcott, Sigurdsson, Bernard; Richarlison

Everton

Key Stats

  • Chelsea are unbeaten in 23 Premier League games at home against Everton (W13 D10) dating back to a 1-0 loss in November 1994.
  • Only one team has ever had a longer winless run on the road against an opponent in Premier League history than Everton’s current 23 against Chelsea – Tottenham went 25 away games without a win at Stamford Bridge between 1993 and 2016.
  • If Chelsea avoid defeat on Sunday, Maurizio Sarri will set a new record for longest unbeaten start in the competition by a manager (12 games), overtaking Frank Clark’s 11 games in 1994.
  • Everton have lost 11 of their last 13 away Premier League games played on a Sunday (D2) since winning 2-1 at QPR in March 2015.
  • Everton manager Marco Silva has lost all six of his away Premier League matches in London. Only one manager has lost his first seven Premier League away games in London (Mick McCarthy, who lost his first eight).

Betting Odds

Favourable Bets

1. Chelsea Clean Sheet – NO @ 1.57

2.  Over 2.5 Match Goals @ 1.57

Underdog Bets

1. Richarlison to score anytime @ 3.60

Player to Watch

Ross Barkley

A test of character against his former employers. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

A test of character against his former employers. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Ross Barkley has been on the road to redemption at the start of this season after being rather substandard in the first six months of stint at Chelsea. But, the arrival of Maurizio Sarri has been the perfect tonic for the midfielder, who has also managed to return to the fold on the international scene with England.

On Sunday, however, Barkley will face the biggest test of his career when he goes up against his former side Everton for the very first time. The reception for the former Evertonian will unlikely be a raucous one from the travelling supporters, and it will be interesting to see if he can rise above that to deliver a solid performance against his boyhood club.

Prediction

Chelsea 2-0 Everton

Chelsea may not have dazzled much of late, but Maurizio Sarri has evidently instilled a sense of stubbornness in the group, which has seen them persevere hard to get over the line in tough games. Everton, on the other hand, are starting to find an identity under the tutelage of Marco Silva, but have not managed to be consistent enough so far.

To add to their woes, Stamford Bridge hasn’t exactly been a happy hunting ground for the Toffees, who last won at Chelsea in 1994. With Richarlison unlikely to be at a 100 percent, it will be a tough ask for Everton to get a shock win, especially with Eden Hazard returning to the side.

The Hard Tackle predicts another win over Everton at the Bridge for Chelsea, who should be comfortable in a 2-0 victory on Sunday.

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