Tim Howard's lack of match fitness might delay a decision over who starts in goal for another week
While Roberto Martinez was able to inspire Everton to the double over Manchester United and a hugely creditable draw at The Emirates in his first season in charge, two increasingly galling away hoodoos that can be erased in the next month remain intact.
It's 19 years since the Blues last beat Arsenal on their home turf and now 21 years since an Everton team won at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League, lingering legacies of the dark 1990s and the infamous pschological hold the old "Sky Four" appeared to have over David Moyes.
Last season saw a spirited performance from Martinez's men in West London that never looked like earning a long-awaited win but surely deserved the point that was denied by John Terry's late intervention. Jose Mourinho's team never really got past third gear last season but the Portuguese presides over a well-oiled machine right now. The fact that Chelsea have a seven-point lead over their nearest challenger at the top of the table, combined with Everton's record of just one win seven games makes this midweek trip to the Capital almost seem like an exercise in futillity.
Strange things happen in football, though, so while there's opportunity there is hope. And with each deliberate step the Blues take away from that nightmare run of results over Christmas and the New Year, the confidence grows so that, hopefully, Martinez can get back some of that fearless approach that was a hallmark of 2013-14.
It's unlikely to be today, however. The fact that he is likely to adopt the same approach for this game as he did in Saturday's anaemic Merseyside derby — one predicated on a shored-up midfield and defensive solidity at the expense of attacking intent — probably means this won't be the occasion where some of the shackles come off. But then we'd probably all take a draw before a ball is kicked, even if it will make for another frustrating spectacle.
With Aiden McGeady ruled out with a knee injury and Leighton Baines also highly doubtful having not trained for a week, any desire on Martinez's part to go "same again" for this one will largely depend on the fitness of James McCarthy, Muhamed Besic and Steven Naismith. The Irish international played the full 90 minutes on Saturday despite having played no football since the end of December and his manager indicated in his pre-match press conference that the condition of the his hamstring will be assessed before a decision is made. Besic, meanwhile, was carrying "a knock" according to Martinez and Naismith suffered a neck injury in an early fall against Liverpool but but both should be fit to play.
Should any of them fail fitness tests, the door would be opened for Ross Barkley or Aaron Lennon to step in after both started the derby on the bench but came on to make positive contributions in the time available to them. That would certainly give the side a more creative outlet and, hopefully, help bridge the large gaps between Romelu Lukaku up front and the rest of the side.
With something to prove to his old boss now that he is eligible to face them again at Stamford Bridge, Lukaku will have extra motivation to add to his tally of seven League goals but he will need service to do so.
The question of who starts in goal is one of heated debate among supporters following Martinez's comments about the first-choice spot being Tim Howard's to lose but this game might come too soon for the American who only resumed full training a few days ago. That would give Joel Robles one more match in which to stake his claim for a berth many fans believe he has already earned with three successive clean sheets.
Despite their dauntingly impressive League form and the likely return of Cesc Fabregas, Chelsea are not infallible and, like any team, can succumb to an opposition that comes ready to have a go and push them to the limit. Just ask Bradford City. They will also be without chief mark, Diego Costa who is suspended for his stamping antics on Emre Can in the League Cup semi-final the other week, but Loic Remy has shown himself to be an able deputy.
While there was plenty of that spirit and attitude about them when the chips were down in the FA Cup at Upton Park last month, there has been very little about Everton over the past three games that suggests they will play with such abandon, at least not for the first hour.
More probably, Martinez's approach will be one of containment for the first two thirds of the contest and then, perhaps, a gradual upping of the ante if things are still level late on. Again, most fans would take a draw from such a difficult fixture and use it as another stepping stone towards the all-important first leg against Young Boys in a week's time.
Kick off: 7.45pm
Referee: Jonathan Moss
Full coverage: ToffeeWeb Match Reports
Reader Comments (76)
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1 Posted 10/02/2015 at 23:32:12
Let's hope Lukaku feels he has something to prove - not least to us.
2 Posted 10/02/2015 at 23:55:41
Very DM McCarthy
Very very DM Barry
We have to stay tight for this one and it's likely to be backs against the wall. I don't want to see Naismith out wide, but I think he should start. In fact I'd even consider dropping Lukaku for Lennon then bang Naismith in the centre. Or KonÃ©.
3 Posted 11/02/2015 at 00:25:32
4 Posted 11/02/2015 at 00:28:09
5 Posted 11/02/2015 at 01:17:20
Coleman Stones Jagielka Garbutt
Lennon Barkley Mirallas
6 Posted 11/02/2015 at 02:15:05
If we have a go at them then we might got snotted all over the park but we might have an outside chance of a win or draw.
People above want to take a shield to a gunfight. At least take a knife.
7 Posted 11/02/2015 at 03:18:21
8 Posted 11/02/2015 at 06:42:17
Keep them quiet for 65-70 minutes at 0-0 and then it could be backs to the ball getting out of there with a point, but the slightest of slips and any loose balls and it's game over, I'm afraid.
9 Posted 11/02/2015 at 07:04:30
Of course they are a well oiled machine right now, but they lack pace at the back and we are much more likely to gain something from this match if we give them something to worry about. Play like we did against Liverpool and we will struggle.
10 Posted 11/02/2015 at 07:37:49
11 Posted 11/02/2015 at 08:52:26
12 Posted 11/02/2015 at 08:58:55
Sin miedo has been put into the freezer until we get to the infamous 40 puntos.
13 Posted 11/02/2015 at 08:58:10
14 Posted 11/02/2015 at 08:57:15
Why have we not won a match there for so long? It’s not really acceptable for an established Premier League club like Everton to not win a match away to one of its fellow rivals for such a length of time.
I’d be made up with a draw tonight but let’s be bold, let’s have a performance that we simply haven’t really seen from Everton this season, at the minute one we just don’t look like putting in that’s going to be good enough to win, granted but come on, we are due a big big display.
This will be the first season in my memory that we haven’t put in a really "stellar performance" to upset one of the top sides and beat them.
Even under Moyes we couldn’t do it away but at Goodison we regularly fucked up the big boys.
Come on, Blues!!
15 Posted 11/02/2015 at 09:06:25
But I can't resist Â– so here goes!
16 Posted 11/02/2015 at 09:12:40
17 Posted 11/02/2015 at 09:18:50
18 Posted 11/02/2015 at 09:17:40
You would think law of averages would mean we’ve played these guys enough times that, even just once, we’d luck out... but no, not one win at Anfield, the Emirates, Stamford Bridge or a Moyes-less Old Trafford in god knows how long. White Hart Lane is going the same way (although every other club seems to be able to win there).
As a club, we just have one of the worst mentalities of any team in the league to playing the big boys. The best we hope for is a draw but often we’re beaten before we even start, desperately trying to conserve a 1-0 or 2-0 loss. Next week, you see some side near the bottom of the table having a free swing at one of the big guns, giving them a massive scare on their own patch. It’s never us and that’s infuriating.
19 Posted 11/02/2015 at 09:20:53
Baines (if fit)
Lukaku or Kone (makes no difference IMO)
Swap 'Sin Miedo' for 'No Pasaran'. A point tonight and a win against Leicester and we could get to the giddy heights of mid table safety.
20 Posted 11/02/2015 at 09:29:05
Couldn't agree more, great post.
I mean it comes to something when most Everton fans accept that us winning at Chelsea is more of a shock than probably even bloody Bradford winning there.
It's clearly something in the blueprint at our club over the last 20 year's or so. You can't blame luck when it's over such a length of time.
21 Posted 11/02/2015 at 09:45:28
Robles, Coleman, Stones, Jagielka, Baines/Oviedo. Mirallas, Barkley, Besic, McCarthy, Lennon, Lukaku.
Nullify their midfield, cut out the supply to whoever is their front man, two wide men in Mirallas and Lennon and hit them on the break. 1-0 win guaranteed!!
22 Posted 11/02/2015 at 10:00:16
Hopefully I will be proved wrong and we will play some football and play them off the park, sigh.
23 Posted 11/02/2015 at 10:01:07
Take a glance these, strange but very true facts..
21 years without winning at Chelsea.
19 years without a win at Arsenal.
We went 51 years without winning at Leeds.
We had a spell of 21 years without winning at Tottenham between 1985-2006.
We unbelievably went from 1987 to 2005 without beating Aston Villa at Villa Park.
1999 since our last win at Anfield.
We have won 3 Merseyside derbies in 15 years.
We went from 1995 to 2005 without beating Manchester United home or away.
We went a full decade from 2000-2010 without beating Chelsea full stop home or away.
I tell you what: if half of these records were not so bad, we could actually be proud of them!
Thank God for West Ham.
24 Posted 11/02/2015 at 10:18:12
Coleman, Sones, Jagielka, Garbutt
Besic, McCarthy, Barkley
Lennon, Lukaku, Mirallas.
25 Posted 11/02/2015 at 10:11:23
They have a seven-point lead at the top now, so they may be tempted to take their foot off the gas a little. As long as we can keep Stones and Jagielka fit, we'll be absolutely fine at the back for the rest of the season.
This is a free hit really Â– nobody expects us to win, so the team can play with a little freedom, which has been lacking for months now, especially at Goodison.
I'm looking forward to this, actually; I would like to keep this unbeaten run going if we can't sneak a win.
26 Posted 11/02/2015 at 10:21:18
You can imagine Mourinho's post match interview
"Only one team tried to play football tonight. The other team was playing football from the 1800s. And they parked two buses. The referee did nothing to protect us from this negative football."
27 Posted 11/02/2015 at 10:32:49
Totally understandable if we had leaked goals but it sends out totally the wrong message, almost saying "it doesn't matter how you perform because I have my favourites".
28 Posted 11/02/2015 at 10:27:03
AJ and Tim Derby
That's 4. Have I missed any?
Can't believe it's between 21 years (actually it's far closer to 20) since we won at the Bridge. Vividly remember listening to it on the radio and us getting high praise on MOTD that night... during that spell where the RAF were flying and it felt like we could beat anyone. Even seasons where you flirt with relegation can be great.
29 Posted 11/02/2015 at 10:28:24
30 Posted 11/02/2015 at 10:49:21
Yes, you can include the Gosling derby, I was tending to go with mainly league, and of course the Gosling one ended 0-0 in normal time but hey, what the heck, let's have it.
Yes, I recall watching our last win at the Bridge on Match of the Day, memories of a half built Stamford Bridge, a casual peach of a cross with the outside of Limpar's boot for Rideout to head the winner in the wallpaper white tractor skid mark away kit.
Joe Royle's first away match that was.
31 Posted 11/02/2015 at 11:06:41
Lukaku scoring our winning goal at the Bridge would be nice but nice doesn't necessarily win games. I'll take the winner from any of our players Â– hoping to see something along these liens, considering the Baines in unlikely to play. Hopefully JM is fit Â– as he makes a difference.
One thing I know for sure Â– the travelling Blues will be singing their hearts out on a cold London night. Enjoy the game everybody... COYB!!!
32 Posted 11/02/2015 at 11:13:07
33 Posted 11/02/2015 at 10:57:33
34 Posted 11/02/2015 at 11:26:33
35 Posted 11/02/2015 at 11:29:00
36 Posted 11/02/2015 at 11:38:43
I agree with you about those teams who are in theory smaller than Everton getting victories against the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool etc Â– especially at their grounds. Frustrates me too.
I suppose it's because Everton are much better than these so-called smaller clubs and the bigger clubs respect us more, don't take us for granted, and realise they have to up their game when playing us.
37 Posted 11/02/2015 at 12:07:31
38 Posted 11/02/2015 at 12:31:54
39 Posted 11/02/2015 at 12:43:13
40 Posted 11/02/2015 at 12:34:20
I expect tonight we will see an abominable team selection, where he continually selects chronically out-of-form players. His substitutions will be equally bad, and untimely, post-match Â– RM verbal diahrrea. I will also see the postings on TW to be virtual replicas of previous posts after most games we've suffered through this season.
If we hold onto to this manager until the end of the season, we will see a mass exodus of players, which could be the downfall of our great club. I hope now supporters will be more vociferous at the next home game, and demand the sacking or resignation of Roberto Martinez.
Colin Glassar, I respect your optimism, but there are times you have to face reality: we have a Muppet for a manager.
41 Posted 11/02/2015 at 10:21:01
I was gutted when Fulham got relegated. I think we won 13 out of 13 at Goodison.
42 Posted 11/02/2015 at 12:54:52
Despite the Barry moaning, if McCarthy or Besic are not match fit, then we are lucky to have him.
I would like to see Kone helping Lukaku at some point, especially if we go behind. And introduce Ross a bit earlier.
43 Posted 11/02/2015 at 12:57:35
In saying that, a draw would be good. COYB Â– get stuck into them!!!
44 Posted 11/02/2015 at 12:55:54
Some validity about the reasons behind our woeful record at those mentioned venues but for me it's too easy an excuse.
We have underperformed away to these sides for a club of a stature and it's gone on for too long.
45 Posted 11/02/2015 at 12:47:04
A Chelski side under Mourinho will always be the toughest away match in the league. We are expected to lose, so we have everything to gain from a good performance. We will necessarily be pragmatic again, and I do not think three DM’s would be a bad idea given the strength of Chelski’s score, but they will again lead to an AMC playing out of position. I’d prefer to have Barkley than Naismith involved if we do play three DMs, as I think he is more likely to come up with the something special we need, and his lapses will be less costly in a game with three DM’s. We need to work the ball quicker, and get it to Lukaku in the right areas, because he has the skills to worry Cahill and Terry. We should also stick Mirallas on the left, as Chelski can be exploited down that side because of Ivan’s lack of place, and the lack of a genuine right sided mid (unless Cuadrado starts) in Chelski’s starting 11, as Spurs demonstrated through Chadli, and Kane’s runs from the left. I’d also like Robles to stay in goal.
Martinez was praised widely on here in the months after he took over from Moyes, because of his perceived ability to integrate youngsters in the starting 11. But, Coleman had a great six months before Moyes left, and I expect Stones would have emerged irrespective given our CB issues. Recent games have seen Barkley look increasingly poor when he has been in the team, and Besic, Robles and Oviedo have only been given chances because of the absences of preferred first teamers. Given the form of Besic and Robles in particular, Martinez has a chance to demonstrate materially his trust in our very good youth players, and playing a team involving Oviedo, Robles, Barkley, Besic, McCarthy, Stones and Lukaku would give us 7 players under 25 in the first team. Whilst this season has been a washout, I think prioritising the younger players whilst attempting to get back in the top half should be our brief in the league now.
46 Posted 11/02/2015 at 13:02:25
Congratulations, if ToffeeWeb ever dies you've written its epitaph.
47 Posted 11/02/2015 at 12:44:23
Jim (24) most teams have similar records against certain sides. We could justifiably be seen as a bogey team for Swansea (beat us for the first time EVER earlier this season), Fulham (never won a league game at Goodison), Sunderland (before last season hadn't won at Goodison since 1996 & had lost 14 of previous 19 meetings home or away). Funnily enough there's been a bit less fuss made about Martinez being in charge when 2 of those records were lost than there was about us winning at Old Trafford.
48 Posted 11/02/2015 at 13:04:56
49 Posted 11/02/2015 at 13:13:09
50 Posted 11/02/2015 at 13:11:23
On the theme of unenviable records, when was the last time an Everton player scored two goals in the same game? Was it Leighton Baines at West Ham last year? When was the last time one of our forwards scored twice in the same game?
51 Posted 11/02/2015 at 13:41:13
Ernie (#7) Â– I love your closing line.
I keep saying it but I would never choose Naismith over Barkley if both fit.
52 Posted 11/02/2015 at 14:03:08
53 Posted 11/02/2015 at 14:10:02
We’ll probably start with Barry/McCarthy/Besic in CDM, which means we’ll really struggle to put up any kind of attack. The likes of Mirallas, Lennon (hopefully he’ll start) and Lukaku will be chasing ghosts in the final third. Chelsea will just keep knocking on the door until it inevitably opens.
It’s a tough place to go and they’re the best team in the land so I can understand the defensive tendancy but, at the end of the day, we have to have a go. We simply don’t have the stamina, concentration or players to be able to just defend for 90 minutes there.
If I could pick the team, I’d play a few younger players from the off so that their youth and energy will give Chelsea something to think about. Won’t happen but I’d pick:
Coleman Stones Jagielka Oviedo
Lennon Barkley Mirallas
I would ask Barkley to sit a bit deeper, more a CM rather than AM role, with Kone and Garbutt to come on at sometime depending on how the game is going.
If we come to just defend, we’ll lose.
54 Posted 11/02/2015 at 14:22:13
55 Posted 11/02/2015 at 14:20:25
56 Posted 11/02/2015 at 14:32:51
I'd put Besic in ahead of Barry but think the Pensioners might be a bit too cute for him.
57 Posted 11/02/2015 at 14:48:01
58 Posted 11/02/2015 at 14:49:21
59 Posted 11/02/2015 at 14:52:26
The laws of probability would dictate that he would eventually get one or more of these 'actions' correct, over a given period of time. Chelsea knew this, and quite frankly we were mugged of 㿈 million.
60 Posted 11/02/2015 at 15:21:34
I am not a gambling man but I am thinking about it!
However, my point is that this price shows how far we have gone backwards under this "don't know what you are doing" manager and what the bookies think of us, which has made me feel quite ashamed and not a little sad.
Still I will put my money where my heart is
61 Posted 11/02/2015 at 15:41:02
62 Posted 11/02/2015 at 15:50:21
It also means the forwards aren't all running into one another so there is space to play forward passes to.
I think we have a decent record of draws at Stamford Bridge. My head tells me this is a Chelsea banker but my heart (and bias) tells me we will get something out of this.
63 Posted 11/02/2015 at 16:05:39
21 years without a win will now be 22. If ya know ya history, that is quite shameful.
64 Posted 11/02/2015 at 16:13:52
65 Posted 11/02/2015 at 16:30:07
That is where our comparison should be, as an absolute minimum.
66 Posted 11/02/2015 at 16:29:42
Which forwards are those?
Lukaku is more likely to run into a post than one of our players, they are so far behjnd the play.
67 Posted 11/02/2015 at 16:29:09
68 Posted 11/02/2015 at 16:54:39
69 Posted 11/02/2015 at 16:55:59
I've had my usual score on Everton tonight and a saver on us nicking a point.
I've lost interest in the RM discussion and am just counting off those 10-12 points to safety.
70 Posted 11/02/2015 at 17:16:17
Centre Forward, with instructions not to be off side every couple of minutes, might have someone in the box then to score a goal or two.
71 Posted 11/02/2015 at 18:00:13
72 Posted 11/02/2015 at 18:31:44
If Howard's starts tonight, let's hope he comes for the ball with conviction, unlike the same game last season. .....
73 Posted 11/02/2015 at 18:47:29
74 Posted 11/02/2015 at 18:50:39
75 Posted 11/02/2015 at 18:56:12
76 Posted 11/02/2015 at 19:05:24
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