Chelsea have another opportunity to strengthen their Champions League ambitions with a visit to Goodison Park to face Everton on Sunday. Neither Arsenal nor Manchester United will be in Premier League action this weekend, which means it is a chance for Maurizio Sarri’s men to move into contention. He will be desperate to do that, especially after a very strong performance during the week to beat Dynamo Kiev. The strength of the squad was on full show and fringe players are now pushing to be involved on a more regular basis.
The focus will be on Chelsea on Sunday, but the home side will be under a different sort of pressure when the game kicks-off. They were very disappointing last weekend as they lost from 2-0 up against Newcastle United. It should have been a comfortable position for Everton and three points should have been brought back to Merseyside. Their failure to complete the job has left questions being asked of Marco Silva’s ability as a long-term manager at the club. He has a good reputation, but he has now struggled in three different roles in English football. Time is running out for the Portuguese coach.
A win for Chelsea would take them level on points with Arsenal in 4th position with the same number of matches played. Despite the criticism that Sarri has faced this season, he could still go on to have a successful first campaign at Stamford Bridge. The stories surrounding the Italian potentially losing the dressing room were over-stated and he has steered the club back onto the straight and narrow. The Europa League exploits in the week may have a lasting effect on the stamina of the players, but it is likely that changes are made to the team. They should look at this match as one they should be winning given Everton’s patchy form.
The defeat to Newcastle was only the second time that Everton have lost an away Premier League match having led by two goals.
Chelsea failed to beat Wolves, but they only conceded two shots during the match, which underlines the dominance they displayed in the fixture.
The Brazilian got back among the scorers last weekend and he will be looking to finish the season with a bang at Everton, proving why the club spent big on him last summer. This season has been a good first campaign for the former Watford man, but he is under increased scrutiny due to the price tag. It is fixtures such as these that he will want to play a big part in as it will prove he is a player of the highest calibre. Another reason why he needs to show consistency is his place in the international set-up. He has featured for Brazil during the last 12 months and been impressive in those matches. At the age of 21, he does have a huge future in front of him and it is exciting for Everton supporters that they have managed to bring him to Goodison Park. This season, he has contributed 11 goals and it will be hoped that he can reach at least 15 by the end. One disappointing part of his game is a lack of assists. He has contributed only one in the Premier League this season and it is an area that he needs to improve on if he is to become one of the best attackers in the league. Chelsea are vulnerable at the back and if Richarlison approaches the game with the right attitude, he will cause them problems.
It is often said that Eden Hazard is the most important player for Chelsea and it is difficult to disagree with that. The Belgian international is one of the most talented players in Europe and he has been even better under the management of Maurizio Sarri. Last weekend, he came up trumps for the Blues with a last minute equaliser and he will need to play a starring role if the club are to finish in the top four. If he can show more consistency in the final third and be more deadly in front of goal, the club should finish the season with a flourish. This season, he has averaged 2.6 shots, 2.6 key passes and 3.3 dribbles per match in the Premier League. These are exceptional figures and underline the influence he has on the pitch. His end product has improved as he has already reached 13 goals and 11 assists, which is remarkable in a division as competitive as the one he plays in. Everton conceded three goals against Newcastle who don’t score bucket loads. They will be very scared to face Hazard if the Belgian is at the top of his game.
Seamus Coleman is a doubt for the home side as he has suffered with illness this week. Phil Jagielka is also a doubt, while Leighton Baines is in contention for the return to the match-day squad.
Gonzalo Higuain is a doubt for Chelsea, which means Olivier Giroud may be given an opportunity to retain his place in the starting eleven after a hat-trick in the Europa League. Both Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Callum Hudson-Odoi will be hoping for minutes after good performances during the week.
It is going to be a difficult test for Chelsea, as Goodison Park can be a hard place to go and win. There have been several good games between these two teams in the past and neutrals will be hoping for something similar on Sunday. The home side have shown an inability to defend during recent weeks and that will give Sarri a lot of confidence heading into this fixture. The Blues should have enough to take the three points, but they need to be wary of fatigue following their trip to Ukraine.
Everton 1-3 Chelsea