The early kick off on Saturday will have a huge impact on the title race and the fight for Champions League football. Chelsea will want to retain their place at the summit, while Everton need a result to keep up with Liverpool and Tottenham in the battle for fourth. In Jose Mourinho’s first season back at Stamford Bridge, he will be keen to win some silverware and they are in a great position to become Premier League Champions in May, with many considering it to be between them and Manchester City. Everton have been lauded for the quality of their football under Roberto Martinez, but it is crucial for them to continue picking up results in the final part of the season if they are to have any serious impact in the league.
Chelsea are top of the table at the moment with 57 points, one clear of Arsenal and three clear of Manchester City who have a game in hand. They have dropped points twice recently against West Ham at home and West Brom away. If they are to win the title this year, they have to be picking up maximum points in these matches. Their home form has been spectacular though, only dropping four points at Stamford Bridge all season. It’s important they carry this form on until the end of the season. The recent addition of Nemanja Matic has given another dimension to the Chelsea side, which only a top striker away from becoming one of the most feared in Europe.
Everton have started to slip recently, after only winning two of their last six matches. They find themselves in 6th which is still very good, but Roberto Martinez’s men are eight points behind local rivals Liverpool in 4th, albeit with a game in hand. Their eclectic brand of football has made them hard to beat, only losing four times this season – just Chelsea themselves have lost on fewer occasions. They will be disappointed if they fail to secure European football for next season, while they still have a chance of qualifying for the Champions League, but that looks less and less likely with every week that passes.
In their previous meeting this season at Goodison Park, Everton came out on top with a 1-0 win. Steven Naismith scored for the Blues on that occasion. In the corresponding fixture last season, Chelsea triumphed 2-1. Naismith scored on that occasion too for Everton, while goals from Juan Mata and Fernando Torres secured the victory for the home side.
Incredibly, Leighton Baines has fewer assists than Tim Howard this season. The left back hasn’t got any assists this campaign, while Howard has one to his name. The English international will be hoping to improve creatively to ensure he starts in Rio this summer.
Chelsea have conceded the fewest goals this season, with Petr Cech being beaten on only 21 occasions. This shouldn’t be surprising given Mourinho makes his sides hard to beat.
Many would consider Eden Hazard as the best player in the league on current form. He has scored 12 goals and assisted five times this season, which is very impressive. He is starting to develop into the world class player that many expected him to become after joining Chelsea in the summer of 2012. Jose Mourinho has had a positive impact on the attacking midfielder, as he has added industry to the Belgian’s game as he now tracks back; this is an important quality for a player in a Mourinho side. In his last match at Stamford Bridge, he netted a hat-trick that was brimming with quality against Newcastle United and Chelsea fans will be hoping for a similar display on Saturday. Everton’s fluid style does open up pockets of space in their own half as their full backs attack. This will benefit Hazard who likes to run with pace on the counter attack, so he could end up doing the damage on Saturday. He’s created 65 chances, which is a chance every 34 minutes, and he is the most prolific creator in the league.
Everton have a Belgian of their own who can do damage in the final third. He has as many assists as Hazard (5), while he creates a chance every 37 minutes, which is only three minutes more, per chance, than his countryman. Mirallas has created 49 chances in all. He has only scored five goals though, and this is something he’ll hope to improve on over the remaining games. Given the absence of Romulu Lukaku and the inexperience of Lacina Traore in England, Martinez may opt to start the Belgian as a striker. If that’s the case then he’ll have to take the chances that come his way. At Stamford Bridge, visiting teams need to score when they find a way through as Chelsea are so difficult to beat there. With the World Cup on the horizon, it’s crucial that Mirallas continues his good form to ensure he grabs a starting spot in a very competitive Belgian side.
John Terry could return after missing the past few fixtures with a muscle problem, while Marco van Ginkel remains on the long term injury list. Mourinho is likely to opt for his 4-2-3-1 formation with Willian, Oscar and Hazard all starting. Nemanja Matic is likely to continue in the side after his impressive start. Fernando Torres could make his first start since returning from injury.
Everton have a longer injury list, but good news for them is that Steven Naismith could overcome the concussion he suffered in the FA Cup to play a part this weekend, while Antolin Alcaraz could also be available for selection. Bryan Oviedo and Darron Gibson remain long term absentees. Romulu Lukaku is still out with an ankle injury, but he would have missed this match anyway as he can’t play against his parent club. Lacina Traore could make his Premier League debut.
Chelsea have only dropped points at home twice this season and I can’t see them doing it again on Saturday. They were knocked out of the FA Cup last weekend and that will only increase the hunger for the Premier League title in the dressing room. Everton have been playing good football this season, but results have started to drop and going to Stamford Bridge will be another huge chance to show their quality, but I expect them to come up short. Hazard will prove to be the match-winner again.