A Blue Up North previews Chelsea’s trip to face Everton in the Premier League.
This Sunday sees Chelsea head to Merseyside for their Premier League clash against Everton at Goodison Park. It is a key match in The Blues’s quest to qualify for next season’s Champions League.
After their smooth progress in the Europa League on Thursday, Chelsea can take a significant step by moving up to 4th place with victory on Sunday. That would end a fantastic week as they work on both avenues left available to them to reach the holy grail of Europe’s premier competition.
However, Everton are a strong, dangerous side. Outside of the top 6 sides, they have invested the most amount in their playing side as they attempt to break in to the conglomerate at the top of the division. The likes of Richarlison, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Michael Keane and Jordan Pickford have all been purchased recently.
With this in mind, The Toffees are having a slightly disappointing season. Not only are they 20 points behind the top 6, but they have not beaten any of the top 6 since January 2017.
Their plight has not looked so impressive recently. They have lost 4 of their last 6 league matches and haven’t won at home since 13 January. Admittedly that run has included a goalless draw with Liverpool and defeat to Manchester City, but they have also lost to Wolves.
Despite this run, Chelsea will need to be wary of Everton’s quality and technical ability. After all, they achieved a goalless draw at Stamford Bridge back in November. That was a scrappy match which Everton held out, denying The Blues the chance to return to the top of the league. It was also Chelsea’s 18th and final unbeaten match as they started the season so well.
The Blues go into this match after showing signs of recovery after a tough part of their season. Chelsea now have a clear path for reaching the Europa League Final ahead of them and have been applying pressure on the teams above them since dropping out of the top 4.
Maurizio Sarri has been settling in to utilising more of his squad after a long spell of just keeping with the same few players. Once again we will see a fairly big rotation from the team that started in Ukraine. Probably only Kepa Arrizabalaga, Antonio Rudiger and N’Golo Kante are likely to keep their places.
Gonzalo Higuain did not travel to Kiev as he recovered from a virus, while David Luiz and Eden Hazard also did not play on Thursday. Cesar Azpilicueta, Jorginho and Pedro only made substitute appearances and are all likely to be recalled to the starting line up.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Callum Hudson-Odoi both enjoyed a full 90 minutes against Dynamo, but are likely to only be seen minimally against Everton. The main question for Sarri to decide is whether Kovacic or Ross Barkley starts.
Marco Silva is likely to have Seamus Coleman, Leighton Baines and Phil Jagielka back in contention to start, but Kurt Zouma is ineligible against his parent club. But it is scoring goals that they have struggled with more than anything else all season.
So provided the Chelsea defence can be protected well from midfield and remain focus and determined, they should have the platform set for another 3 points. Sarri will have worked with his forward players regarding their lack of movement against Wolves and hopefully they will be reinvigorated.
Despite a long spell of 2 matches every week, Sarri has now managed to give most of his key players a reasonable amount of rest and the squad is now looking ready to return from the international break next weekend ready to mount a charge towards the end of the season.
But a victory away at Goodison Park will be a good psychological boost for The Blues and the 3 points will lift them above both Arsenal and Manchester United up into 4th place, only 1 point behind Tottenham Hotspur in 3rd. That in itself will be a very welcome negative psychological blow to those teams.
Therefore this is not a match to underestimate the significance of.
Written by Jon Ellis, home and away season ticket holder. Follow him on Twitter @ClitheroeBlue