Ahead of Sunday's trip to Stamford Bridge, we spoke with Chelsea HQ to get their angle on a fixture that has provided plenty of drama in recent years but which Everton haven't won since 1994.
Ahead of Sunday's trip to Stamford Bridge, we spoke with Scott at Chelsea HQ to get his angle on where the reigning Champions are at the moment and a fixture that has provided plenty of drama in recent years but which Everton haven't won since 1994.
ToffeeWeb: There were rumblings over the summer of Antonio Conte being upset with the Chelsea hierarchy and that he could fall early victim to Stamford Bridge’s legendary revolving door. Is he happy at Chelsea now that the season is underway or do you fear there are more ructions to come?
ChelseaHQ: Antonio Conte seemed way more relaxed in the last week or so, but his previous history at Juventus shows that the Chelsea board should be very cautious. The last week in the transfer window is crucial for the club. Even if they can’t bring in his main targets, they still need to sign a handful of players for us to really have a go at all four competitions this season. If they don’t, I can see Conte walking. Maybe not as early as Christmas - he has quite a special bond with his players and us fans - but definitely at the end of the season.
TW: In a similar vein, the indiscipline against Burnley seemed, from the outside at least, to hark back to the collapse of Jose Mourinho’s second spell in 2015-16 when some key players appeared to “down tools”. Do you think there is a danger of that happening again if results don’t go according to plan over the next few weeks?
ChelseaHQ: After that shock result against Burnley on the opening weekend, there was a real possibility that history could repeat itself, but bouncing back against Tottenham was crucial. Contrary to popular belief that Chelsea were already in crisis - a picture mainly painted by our beloved media - it was always unlikely that Conte was going to allow another ‘Mourinho season’. It’s always difficult to predict what’s going to happen, but right now we only find ourselves three points behind the league leaders with nine months of Premier League football still to look forward to. While I personally don’t think we will retain the title, we will definitely push our rivals all the way and it will be nothing like the campaign we had to endure two years ago.
TW: The reigning champions can sometimes rest on their laurels a bit and fail to strengthen prior to their defence of the title. Have Chelsea done enough in the market this summer, will Alvaro Morata be an adequate replacement for Diego Costa, and where do you think your team is weakest?
ChelseaHQ: The players we have brought in are definitely the sort of players we should be going after, and many smaller clubs would love to be in Chelsea’s position. It does feel like we haven’t really strengthened though, merely replaced outgoing players. That’s not good enough if you want to challenge for the Premier League title and go far in the Champions League.
Of course there is always the argument that Chelsea have let too many players go out on loan, but realistically, only a handful of those players are truly good enough to become members of the first team squad. At their age they need game time so it is understandable why most of our youngsters opt for a loan move instead.
While Alvaro Morata has looked really good so far, there is no doubt that he will need time to adapt to the English game. What he experienced at Wembley last week, being on the back foot for most of the 90 minutes, he probably never experienced at Juventus or Real Madrid. Is he better than Diego Costa? No. Can he become better than Diego Costa? Absolutely!
Regarding our weaknesses, I still think we need more options in our wing back positions. Victor Moses and Marcos Alonso are both brilliant at what they do, but they are both very attack-minded and their lack of defensive discipline can let them down at times.
TW: Everton haven’t won at Stamford Bridge for 23 years, although we have come very close on a couple of occasions in recent years. What is your opinion of the Toffees as an outsider and do you think they deserve a shot at getting back among the top flight’s elite?
ChelseaHQ: I personally think Everton have done well in the transfer market this summer so it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see you go on a decent Cup run maybe. In the league, I’d love to see you challenging for and maybe snatching that fourth Champions League spot, particularly at the expense of Arsenal, Spurs or Liverpool, but I do worry that Romelu Lukaku’s departure will hurt you quite a bit this season.
It mainly depends on how quickly Sandro Ramirez adapts to the Premier League - and of course you also have Calvert-Lewin who looks the real deal. I have a gut feeling that he could have a Rashford-like season.
Everton will give the big boys a lot to worry about again, as they always do, but I don’t think you’re quite ready yet to seriously mount a challenge for the top four. Qualification for the Europa League and a good run in one of the Cup competitions would be a good season for you from an outsiders perspective.
TW: What sort of game are you expecting on Sunday given your thoughts on where Chelsea are coming off the title win, what you’ve seen of Everton so far and previous encounters in this fixture over the years?
ChelseaHQ: It will be nothing like the game last season, that’s for sure. I’m slightly worried about our makeshift back three (five) in the absence of Gary Cahill. New signing Antonio Rüdiger didn’t have a great game at Wembley last week and that’s an area where a fast, skillful player like Calvert-Lewin could really hurt us, especially on the break.
Everton will most likely come to frustrate us, give us as little space as possible, and try to use the few chances they will get during the game. This might be a good time to play us.
TW: And finally, your prediction?
Since the game is at Stamford Bridge, I’m still confident we will get the three points. A clean sheet seems unlikely at the moment so I will go for a hard-earned 2-1 Chelsea win.
ToffeeWeb's return Q&A from the Everton perspective is posted at Chelsea HQ
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