PREVIEW | Chelsea vs Everton

Everton are in action again in the capital, travelling to Stamford Bridge on Thursday evening.

Last week marked another humiliating as Everton fell to a 3-1 to Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park. The result meant that the Eagles overtook the Toffees, climbing to thirteenth in the table. The Blues lie in fourteenth, after suffering their seventh defeat in their last nine games.

A first goal for Salomón Rondón could not stop Everton falling to yet another embarrassing defeat. Two goals from Chelsea loanee Conor Gallagher – his second an absolute beauty, and James Tomkins – who had not scored a Premier League goal since December 2019 piled even more pressure on Rafa Benitez.

Chelsea on the other hand, sit third in the league, after a late Jorginho penalty secured all three points against a valiant Leeds team. Thomas Tuchel’s men ran out 3-2 winners, with Jorginho slotting two penalties, and Mason Mount scoring the other.

The result meant that Chelsea kept pace with leaders Manchester City and Liverpool, after falling to a 3-2 defeat to West Ham United the weekend before.

The home side could welcome back midfielder N’Golo Kanté, who has recovered from a knee injury, whilst defender Trevor Chalobah is available again after overcoming a hamstring problem.

However, Tuchel will still be without Croatian international Mateo Kovačić as he is isolating due to Covid-19, and defender Ben Chilwell who remains out of action due to knee ligament damage.

Everton’s injuries have only intensified since Sunday afternoon. Rafa Benitez is still without striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin, defender Yerry Mina and midfielder Tom Davies, but the crisis became worse after the defeat to Crystal Palace.

Forwards Richarlison and Andros Townsend both could be out for a number of weeks after picking up injuries against the Eagles. Richarlison was brought off ten minutes into the second half, which Evertonians voiced their disapproval at – Benitez has since announced that Richarlison had a calf injury. Townsend suffered a broken bone in his foot as well.

Captain Seamus Coleman’s bruised foot will be assessed before the game, whilst Lucas Digne, who has missed the last two games after a fall-out with Benitez, was apparently due to start, but reported ill on Wednesday and will miss the game.

One positive news on the injury front is that Allan could return after missing Sunday’s fixture with a groin problem.

One to Watch – Chelsea

Chelsea as a collective team have been phenomenal, but one player is having his best season for them, that player is Reece James.

The defender has eight goal involvements (four goals, four assists) in fourteen games this season. He has also helped Chelsea keep seven clean sheets, and they have also conceded the second least goals in the league – eleven.

So far this season, the wing-back has an average of 7.2 on WhoScored with his strengths being his passing, dribbling, crossing and concentration. The 22-year-old has been so strong and impressive this season that WhoScored have not identified any weaknesses for him.

He is certainly a very good defender, and any winger that goes up against him will have a hard time trying to get past him.

One to Watch – Everton

Performances over the past two months have meant that it has become increasingly difficult to pick out an Everton player to focus on.

Sunday’s performance was that atrocious and embarrassing that no player really deserves to be picked out, but this week’s one to watch will be based on performance throughout the season so far.

Winger Demarai Gray has arguably been the Toffees stand-out player this season and has been the attention of this section numerous times.

His pace, dribbling and work rate has endeared himself to Evertonians, and he has quickly become a fan favourite. His last goal, a stunner against Arsenal further cemented that opinion.

The 25-year-old has seven goal involvements (five goals, two assists) in sixteen Premier League appearances, and will be looking to add to his tally to Thursday.

His main weakness is his aerial ability – Gray is only 180cm and when teams press Everton and force them to go long, he is often not in the game.

Thursday’s opponents are a team that Everton have not beaten at Stamford Bridge in the league since November 1994, when they were 0-1 winners. They are looking to make it twenty-six games unbeaten against the Toffees, which would equal their longest run without defeat at home against the same team.

Another ominous stat for the Blues is that no manager to have previously taken charge of Chelsea in the Premier League has ever beaten them at home.

Chelsea have looked shaky at the back in recent weeks, they have conceded eight goals in December alone, after only conceding five in all games before. This is something that Everton could certainly target going into the game.

With the injury crisis facing Everton, it is very hard to see how they will get anything out of the game. Chelsea will likely dominate from minute one, meaning that it is likely to be a long evening for the Toffees.

Prediction: 3-0.

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