Date:Saturday February 22 2014
Saturday, February 22
Everton travel to Stamford Bridge to take on Chelsea on Saturday in the early kickoff. Both sides were involved in Cup ties last weekend with Everton booking their place in the last 8 after beating Swansea City 3-1, Chelsea however were knocked out of the cup at the hands of a 2-0 defeat to Manchester City. In terms of the league, it shapes as a pivotal clash for both sides. Everton hold very, very faint hope of still finishing in the top 4, however, if they lose, then chances of top 4 are well and truly gone. For Chelsea, they are in a 3 way battle for the League and they know that dropping points at home could be disastrous for their chances.
Martinez on the test for this Everton side ahead of the match against Chelsea
'The game we have at the weekend is going to tell us a lot. It's important that as a team we keep working, we keep developing and keep getting stronger, but only when you get in a match against teams that are competing in the Champions League do you get a clear idea how far away you are. Stamford Bridge is one of the hardest places to go and get three points, and I think it's going to be a terrific measurement for ourselves after the disappointment that we had at White Hart Lane. It's something we need to correct, to use that experience that when you are the better side, you need to win the football game. Chelsea have got terrific home form with this manager, and not just this season. It's an incredible challenge but probably internally we need that.'
Chelsea are expected to welcome back captain John Terry after he missed the last 3 games with a gluteal injury. Terry's return is a timely welcome because it looks like David Luiz is set to miss the game with a hip concern. Young midfielder Marco van Ginkel is also out with a knee injury. Gary Cahill is also a concern with his thigh injury, but given he managed to face City last weekend, he should be fine to face Everton. With a Champions League fixture coming up this week, it will be interesting to see how Mourinho will tinker with his line up as he attempts to juggle a title challenge with Champions League commitments.
Possible Starting XI: Cech, Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta, Mikel, Matic, Hazard, Willian, Ramires, Eto'o
The Belgian has really lived up to the hype he had when he joined Chelsea at the start of last season. Hazard has been instrumental in leading Chelsea's title charge with his ability to not only create, but recently begin to score goals. Everton cannot afford to give Hazard any time and space because with his pace, technique and eye for goal, it could be disastrous for Everton.
Everton had one concern coming out of the 3-1 win over Swansea with match winner Steven Naismith taken off with concussion, however he should be fine to face Chelsea, and will take his place most likely on the bench. Lacina Traore scored in his debut for Everton after overcoming a hamstring injury and is expected to start once again. Antolin Alcaraz is also fit to face Chelsea after overcoming muscle fatigue, and should be on the bench. On loan Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku has resumed full training with the squad, however, is ineligible to face his parent club this weekend, however should be fine to face West Ham next weekend. He will join long term absentees Oviedo (broken leg), Kone and Gibson (both knee) on the sidelines.
Possible Starting XI: Howard, Baines, Distin, Jagielka, Coleman, Barry, McCarthy, Mirallas, Pienaar, Barkley, Traore
The 6'8 Ivorian marked his debut with a goal inside 4mins, and will be looking to do so once again this weekend. Despite his height, Traore did struggle to adapt to the physicality of Premier League defenders, and that will once again be tested this weekend against Terry and Cahill. However, he showed against Swansea, that he can be a very big handful for defenders with his mobility and technique. It will be important that Everton get Traore involved in the play, because he might struggle as an out and out target man.
1. Mourinho has managed Chelsea 73 times in the Premier League at home, and he is yet to lose. This season, they have won 11 and drawn twice in their 13 home games.
2. Everton will be looking to do the double over Chelsea for the first time since the 1978-79 season after beating Chelsea 1-0 earlier in the season
3. Everton have not won at Stamford Bridge in their last 18 visits, dating back to 1994. Chelsea have won 9 of those and drawn the other 9.
4. Despite their excellent home form, Everton have struggled away from home recently, they are winless in their last 4 away matches and failed to score in the last two.
Everton's form has really dipped recently, with injuries to a small squad really taking its toll. However, hopefully with the own in the Cup and getting another couple players back, that confidence Everton fans saw earlier in the season can return. With chances for top 4 more or less gone, they know they will need a result against Chelsea to keep those faint hopes alive. Unfortunately, facing a Chelsea side at Stamford Bridge managed by Mourinho is probably as difficult as they come, so it will be a very tough test for this Everton side. I cannot see Everton winning this one, I think Chelsea will win 2-0 with Hazard and Eto'o on the scoresheet. COYB! PROVE ME WRONG AND END THE MOURINHO STREAK!!!!!!
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Date:Saturday February 22 2014
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