Chelsea vs Everton

Saturday, 26 August, 2017 0comments  |  Jump to last
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Ronald Koeman will be hoping that Idrissa Gueye is passed fit given Morgan Schneiderlin's suspension

Everton are in the Capital for a third successive away game, taking their five-match unbeaten run to Stamford Bridge to face Chelsea in a Sunday lunchtime kickoff.

For Ronald Koeman, it's a return to the scene of his worst result as Everton manager so far, a 5-0 drubbing at the hands of a team that opened the floodgates once it had capitalised on the Dutchman's unfamiliar five-man defence.

That same formation formed the bedrock of last Monday's strong defensive performance at Manchester City, one that almost held Pep Guardiola's much-vaunted attack at bay, and it could be employed again at Stamford Bridge this weekend now that it's a more tried and trusted system.

Indeed, it would be no surprise to see Koeman try to counter Antonio Conte's three-man central defence in this way with the same back five that started at the Etihad Stadium. That could mean a return to the starting XI for Mason Holgate — that would be harsh on Cuco Martina who had a good game in Europe on Thursday — and Phil Jagielka, both of whom sat out the Europa League qualifier in Split.

It's a defensively-minded setup that, if used, will potentially offer protection in the absences of the injured Davy Klaassen and Morgan Schneiderlin who serves a one-game suspension and the latter especially will be a big miss in front of the defence.

Even bigger still given his industry and tenacity would be Idrissa Gueye who didn't travel to Croatia as a precaution over a minor hamstring complaint after the draw at City. With scans on the muscle revealing no damage, there's a good chance the Senegalese will play; if not, it leaves the manager with just Tom Davies and Muhamed Besic as fit options in the middle of the park as James McCarthy and Ross Barkley remain absentees through injuries of their own and Gareth Barry has departed for West Brom.

There is scope, of course to play Wayne Rooney or Gylfi Sigurdsson in more withdrawn roles to cover but it would deprive Koeman of the counter-attacking options he will no doubt be relying on as he plots Chelsea's downfall.

“It's tough playing Monday, Thursday, Sunday and we had to travel,” Koeman said in his pre-match press conference yesterday. “We've been a little bit unlucky with some injuries and that makes it even more difficult but we'll do a session tomorrow to see which players are the most fresh to start.

“I don't like to make changes but maybe it's about freshness for Sunday.

Regardless of freshness concerns, the likes of Rooney, Leighton Baines and Dominic Calvert-Lewin will be asked to play a third game in the space of six days. The international break will afford two of the three a two-week break but Calvert-Lewin will have to draw on youth to power him through these early weeks of the campaign given that he has been called up by England U21s.

The 20-year-old was a revelation against City and Koeman will send him out at Stamford Bridge to unsettle a Chelsea defence that will be missing Gary Cahill and is still bedding in new signing Antonio Rüdiger. And as Burnley showed on the opening day, the Londoners' defence is one that can be ruffled by energy and power in the front line.

The other weapon that Everton will be hoping can make the difference is Sigurdsson who announced himself as a Blues player in the best way possible against Hajduk Split on Thursday and whose set-piece deliveries and crosses could provide the key to the visitors' chances.

Although they will be missing Eden Hazard and top goal poacher Diego Costa is on his way out, the reigning Champions have plenty of threats all over the pitch. And while it's too early to draw conclusions, unlike the implosion in Jose Mourinho's last season at their helm, last weekend's win over Tottenham at Wembley appeared to have nipped any collapse in the bud after that shock at Burnley's hands.

As such, the obstacles in Everton's way as they bid to win on this ground for the first time since 1994 are as significant as ever but with some help on the injury front, some run of the green and a successfully implemented game plan they also stand as good a chance as they have for most of those 23 years.

Kick-off: 1.30pm, Sunday 27 August, 2017
Referee: Jonathan Moss
Last Time: Chelsea 5-0 Everton

Predicted Line-up: Pickford, Holgate, Keane, A. Williams, Jagielka, Baines, Gueye, Davies, Sigurdsson, Rooney, Calvert-Lewin

 


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