Everton and Chelsea meet in the quarter-final of the FA Cup as both sides hope they can end their season with at least one piece of silverware.
Everton’s form this season has been extremely patchy and the blue half of Merseyside has experienced some highs and lows. Roberto Martinez’s managerial stubbornness has also caught the eye. If anyone was to blame for Everton’s loss against West Ham where they were comfortably leading 2-0 with just 15 minutes left, it was the manager. Martinez has been seen time and again refusing to budge from his footballing philosophy.
Chelsea’s hopes of doing a repeat of the season under Roberto di Matteo went out of the window as PSG silenced them at Stamford Bridge, winning the second leg 1-2. Guus Hiddink has done a fabulous job of stabilising the club after taking over from Mourinho and he would hope to end his interim term in charge with a trophy, and the FA Cup remains the only hope.
Manager Roberto Martinez said he was hopeful midfielders Tom Cleverley and Gareth Barry will be fit enough for the FA Cup tie that can make or break Everton’s season. Aaron Lennon is a concern because of a hamstring problem. Meanwhile, full-back Bryan Oviedo, who has displaced Leighton Baines in Martinez’s first 11, is a doubt for the quarter-final having been rushed to the hospital because of a chest infection.
Diego Costa and Eden Hazard were both withdrawn in the second half at Stamford Bridge against PSG, and are now fitness concerns for Saturday’s game against Everton. Costa proved to be a massive difference against PSG as the team looked toothless once he was withdrawn. Young attacker Bertrand Traore could start the FA Cup clash in Costa’s absence.
Romelu Lukaku has firmly established himself as one of the best strikers in the league and given he is only 23, there is room for even more development. Lukaku has now scored 18 league goals this season, beating his previous highest tally of 17, set in 2012-13 while on loan from Chelsea at West Brom. The Belgian could easily want a move in the summer if Everton fail to have a remotely successful season. He remains Everton’s key threat and would hope to make a significant impact against his former club.
In a season of disappointments, Willian has proved to be the only consistent figure for the Blues. The Brazilian has matured into a consistent, more reliable figure and his effort, hard-work and work-rate would be key for Chelsea against Everton. In the potential absence of Diego Costa, Willian’s attacking contribution will become even more important
- It’s the fifth time in the last eight seasons Everton have reached the quarter-final stage, defeating Middlesbrough in 2009 and Sunderland in 2012 but losing to Arsenal in 2014.
- Diego Costa has scored or assisted 17 goals in his past 15 games in all competitions for Chelsea (11 goals, 6 assists). He will be missed in case he isn’t fit for the tie.