Match Preview – Chelsea (A)

An in-form Ross Barkley facing the club he recently betrayed isn’t the big issue going into this weekend’s clash with high-flyers Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

The real issue is whether one of the Premier League’s most in-form players is going to be fit for the game. And I’m not writing about Eden Hazard.

Following Marco Silva’s press conference on Friday afternoon, serious doubts were raised about the fitness of Everton golden boy Richarlison after he went over on his ankle during last week’s 3-1 win against Brighton.

The young Brazilian was seen on Tuesday night for the friendly against Gor Mahia, not to play a part in the game itself, but to sign autographs and take pictures with nearly as many young Everton fans as were in the stadium.

He did, of course, play on after the injury, and go on to score two goals against Brighton, beautiful ones at that. But the warrior felt his wounds after the adrenaline rush of the match, and struggled to train for the rest of the week. He has trained on his own for the last couple of sessions, and will be assessed before travelling to Stamford Bridge.

Richarlison aside, though, Everton are flying at the moment, and unlike much of the national media like to believe, we are not a one-man team. Almost everyone is playing well, and even the ineligibility of in-form centre-back Kurt Zouma against his parent club is being met with the much-anticipated debut of another quality centre-back in Yerry Mina.

James McCarthy is set to be reintroduced to the matchday squad too, providing a boost to an already thriving Everton midfield.

However, the hosts will cause us problems. Eden Hazard is ready to return to the side following a back injury, and his teammates have not let him down during his absence. Chelsea have scored nine goals in their last three outings, and striker Alvaro Morata seems to have finally struck some form.

Morata isn’t the only one in-form, as you could make a case for most of their players since the arrival of Maurizio Sarri. Ross Barkley will need seeing to, but we’re hoping Idrissa Gueye will know how to take care of him, although he may already have his hands full with Chelsea’s forwards.

As Everton proved last week, we can be a threat on the counter attack, and Marco Silva will be hoping that’s the case again on Sunday. However, it won’t be a backs-to-the-wall performance where we only hit on the counter. Silva will make sure his players really have a go at Chelsea, and carry their strong form into the encounter.

So, who will come in to replace Richarlison if he is ruled out? Everton do have options. Silva could bring in any of Cenk Tosun, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, or Oumar Niasse (please, no). Alternatively, we could shuffle things around and play any of Theo Walcott, Gylfi Sigurdsson, or Ademola Lookman in the middle of attack.

There have been calls to move Walcott into the middle amidst his struggle for form on the wing, but his finishing of recent has left quite a few of us scratching our heads.

Gylfi has played as a false-nine before, most notably for Swansea, performing well. However, he’s a player who we wouldn’t want to unsettle in his rich vein of form.

Lookman has surely done enough to warrant a place in the starting eleven, since dusting himself off and getting his head down. Although, it’s unlikely to be down the middle.

If Marco Silva is handed this selection dilemma, he has the full trust of Evertonians in whatever decision he makes. He and other key figures of the club have helped to start to create the family atmosphere around the club that we have sorely missed over the last couple of years, but most of all, they are beginning to create a monster in Everton which is ready to unsettle the so-called ‘big six’ any time now.

– Tom

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