Antonio Conte and Ronald Koeman must have been the shortest bets for sacking before this weekend’s fixtures. But Conte’s team had the tenacity to claw back from a goal down at home against Watford. Everton could not do that against Arsenal at Goodison Park. The result is that Koeman has been sacked and when Everton travel to Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night for the Round of 16 tie in the Carabao Cup, they will most likely be led by an interim manager.
Chelsea have had a checkered start to the season. League losses to Burnley, Manchester City and Crystal Palace must rankle but they have also had some good results in other competitions. The Blues are at the top in a tough Champions League group with half the fixtures having been played. They also thrashed Nottingham Forest 5-1 in the last round of the Carabao Cup. In the league as well, their fortunes turned on Saturday and they rallied to win 4-2 against Watford. So, Everton face a massive challenge on Wednesday.
But, it is unlikely that the Toffees will be up for it. In the league, they have not won a match since 23rd September. With eight points from nine games, the Blues from Liverpool find themselves in the embarrassing eighteenth position. Their chances in the Europa League also seem dim, as they currently sit on a single point from three group games in Europe. They splashed a lot of cash during the summer in a bid to refresh their squad, but it seems that the huge contingent that Koeman brought in this summer has taken too long to settle and has resulted in the Dutchman losing his job.
- Everton have played Chelsea eight times in the League Cup but have never won against them. Their last meeting in the League Cup was almost three years to the date when Chelsea beat the Toffees 2-1 at Goodison Park.
- At Stamford Bridge, the last time Everton did not lose to Chelsea in the League Cup was in November 1985, when they drew 2-2. In all cup competitions (including FA Cup), Everton have played 12 matches at Stamford Bridge, losing nine, winning one, and drawing two.
- In all competitions, the record in the last six matches heavily favors Chelsea, who have scored 15 goals and conceded only four goals in those six matches.
After the victory against Watford a jubilant Conte did indicate that he will rotate quite a bit for this League Cup game. Youngsters like Musonda and Kenedy are looking forward to first team chances but some senior players will also get a chance on Wednesday. One of those will be Willian who played the last 23 minutes and the injury time against Watford. Given that Conte is likely to rest Hazard and Pedro, the Brazilian will be the key outlet for channeling Chelsea’s attacks on Wednesday. Willian’s form is not as prolific as last season as his expected goals per 90 minutes have dipped to only 0.07 this season, from 0.22 last season. Similarly, his expected assists per 90 minutes have also dipped to 0.14. But just like his team needed a good game against Watford to start feeling positive again, perhaps an outing against a flagging Everton can spark some form back into Willian’s game this season.
Everton are a team without a leader right now. They have several newcomers, many of them quite young and they will need effective leadership on the field on Wednesday for them to even make it a bit difficult for Chelsea to win. Wayne Rooney is the only player who can not only provide such leadership but also lead the line for the Toffees. He was the lone bright spark for Everton on Saturday and he is by far the biggest threat Everton can pose at Stamford Bridge. His expected goals and assists per 90 minutes of 0.34 and 0.11 are the highest among his team mates and he has valuable experience of playing and excelling at the Bridge as a Manchester United player.
Chelsea will continue to be without the services of Danny Drinkwater, N’Golo Kante, and Victor Moses. But, Conte has indicated that youngsters like Musonda and Kenedy will get a chance. Also, a chance to start could be provided to the likes of Willian, Zappacosta, and Christensen. Due to Morata’s unavailability, Batshuayi will be required to lead the line and Conte will be hoping he has another good outing.
Everton’s injury list includes Ross Barkley, Bolasie, Funes Mori, and Seamus Coleman. Idrissa Gueye is suspended due to his two yellow cards against Arsenal, while Morgan Schneiderlin is also doubtful for Wednesday. These absences could leave Everton short in the defensive midfield. James McCarthy might be able to play after having recovered from his injury. Meanwhile, Aaron Lennon is also doubtful, but he might have a role to play.
Wednesday’s game is a match between a rebounding Chelsea and an abysmal Everton. Even if Koeman had not been sacked, Chelsea would have been the favourites to win Wednesday’s game but Koeman’s sacking has left Everton adrift and in that condition, I would assume that Everton will not mind exiting the League Cup early a lot, especially if the exit comes at the hand of last season’s League champions. It should be an easy win for Chelsea.
Chelsea 3 – 0 Everton