Chelsea are welcoming Carlo Ancelotti back to the club on Sunday, as Everton travel to Stamford Bridge. For the visitors, they will need a victory to keep their slim hopes of Champions League qualification alive. They are currently eight points below the Blues, but they have been somewhat unlucky during recent weeks. For the hosts, they will be looking over their shoulders, with a clutch of teams still in the running to catch them. A recent improvement at home will give them confidence that they can get a positive result on Sunday.
The run in is now here and it is a crucial period for the current rebuild under Frank Lampard. The new manager was written off during the summer, with many believing that a top six finish would represent a good season. However, he has managed to maintain a top four position for the majority of the campaign. The Blues are clear by three points at the time of writing and they will not want that gap to get any smaller. During the past few weeks, there has been improvement at home with marquee wins over Tottenham and Liverpool. That will give the players confidence ahead of this huge game against an improved Everton side.
Like Chelsea, there is a rebuild going on at Everton with Ancelotti being given the keys to the club. During his short spell in charge, he has shown that he can improve the players already at the club. A formation change has seen Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin being given prominent roles in central areas, which brings out the best in both. Although they took only one point from matches against Arsenal and Manchester United, they are arguably the better team in both matches. Their expected goals created was 5.24. Meanwhile, their expected goals conceded was 2.53. The level of performances have been encouraging and they will be confident that they can beat Chelsea for a second time this season.
Willian has now scored 24 goals from outside the area since his arrival at Stamford Bridge. No other Chelsea player has managed to score more during this period.
Since Ancelotti took charge, no player in the competition has more Premier League goals than Dominic Calvert-Lewin with eight.
The main focus of Olivier Giroud during the recent transfer window was to secure first team football ahead of the Euros. Despite his lack of game time, he was considered a key player for France and Didier Deschamps was keen to see the striker get minutes. As it has turned out, the failure to get a new club has benefitted the Frenchman. Giroud is now the starting striker for the Blues and he has already made a big impact. Although he has scored only once, he has provided a focal point and is showing why players enjoy playing alongside him. Last weekend against Bournemouth, he had three shots, won six of eight aerial duels and conceded possession only eight times. Those operating behind him are benefitting from his hold up play. Everton have been shaky at he back, with a Jordan Pickford coming under scrutiny in the media. Giroud could prove to be a useful outlet this weekend.
It is becoming very difficult to look beyond the striker, due to his relentless goal-scoring form in the Premier League. The stat listed above shows how effective he has been since the managerial change and a major reason for that has been a change in formation. Everton are now operating with two central strikers, with Richarlison in a free role supporting the English striker. Calvert-Lewin is expected to do less work outside of the box, with the full backs pushing up to supply the width and get crosses into the box. The forward is effective in the air and he is being allowed to focus on getting into the penalty box on a more consistent basis. This has, in turn, led to more chances coming his way. Last weekend, he had four shots, won five aerial duels and made one key pass. The goal that he scored was fortunate, but it showed his desire to press high up the pitch and that will please supporters. Gareth Southgate will be watching his performances very closely. Another goal this weekend wouldn’t be a surprise at all.
Mateo Kovacic and Willian are both doubts following the knocks that were suffered in the week. Ruben Loftus-Cheek is expected to be back in the match-day squad. N’Golo Kante remains on the sidelines, while Jorginho will serve the first of a two-game suspension. Billy Gilmour is expected to start. Tammy Abraham and Callum Hudson-Odoi are not expected to feature.
It is hoped that Lucas Digne will be fit to make his return at left-back. Morgan Schneiderlin and Seamus Coleman will both be missing for the visitors.
Chelsea have suffered an injury crisis at the worst possible time, with their current position under threat. They will be relying on Mason Mount and Marcos Alonso providing the goal threat on Sunday, which is a worry. Everton have been so impressive against top teams in recent weeks. It has been very a mixture of bad luck and defensive errors that have prevented them from picking up more points. They travel to Stamford Bridge at a good time and they could pick up the three points.
Chelsea 1-2 Everton