Everton vs Chelsea

Friday, 22 December, 2017 0comments  |  Jump to last

Wayne Rooney is already into double figures for the season

A measure of Everton's revival under Sam Allardyce arrives this weekend as Chelsea come to Goodison Park for the final game before Christmas.

The festive season kicks off with the Blues hosting the third-placed Londoners looking to make up more ground on the top seven having won three of four Premier League games under the new manager.

Combined with David Unsworth's swan song as interim boss, a 4-0 drubbing of West Ham in late November, it's a sequence of results that has vaulted Everton from the 18th place they occupied when Ronald Koeman was sacked to ninth. A win over Chelsea this weekend and a draw or defeat for Leicester against Manchester United would move Allardyce's men into eighth.

They will have to get past the reigning champions first, however, something they haven't managed in the League since Steven Naismith scored that memorable hat-trick in a 3-1 win in September 2015. Since 2015-16, when Everton under Roberto Martinez also came within seconds of winning at Stamford Bridge and then saw Chelsea off in the FA Cup quarter finals, all four subsequent meetings in all competitions.

Antonio Conte's side have lost just twice since the two sides last met in the Carabao Cup in West London but both defeats were away from home and offer hope for Everton as Allardyce seeks to pinpoint the opposition's weaknesses. They were comprehensively beaten by Roma in the Champions League in October and, perhaps more encouragingly, lost 1-0 to West Ham two weekends ago, David Moyes's first win in charge of the Hammers.

Also working in the Toffees' favour is the fact that Conte's top scorer Alvaro Morata will serve a one-match suspension this weekend for picking up a soft booking for his goal celebration against Bournemouth in the League Cup last night, his fifth yellow of the season.

Michy Batshuayi is expected to take his place while the only other absentee for the visitors is likely to be David Luiz who has a knee injury.

For Everton, Yannick Bolasie could be named in the matchday squad for the first time in over a year. The Congolese winger returned to full training last month, has played just over a full game's worth for the Under-23s and was, more than likely, involved in the 11-vs-11 practice match that Allardyce said he was going to stage at Finch Farm this week to further assess those fringe players who have not been able to get into the team recently.

Among them are strikers Sandro Ramirez and Oumar Niasse. The former only got a couple of minutes at the end of the win over Swansea last Monday but the latter was omitted from the squad entirely and was seen leaving Goodison before the match. With Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Wayne Rooney in good form, those two players will surely be vying for one spot on the bench alongside the likes of Ademola Lookman and Nikola Vlasic.

That's because given the difficulty of the assignment, it's a good bet that Allardyce will retain something close to an unchanged line-up from the one that started the last two matches. Deploying two holding midfielders, particularly at home, has become unpopular among Blues supporters of late but the manager could go with that formation again, at least for the first hour or so, even though Everton looked better going forward against Swansea once the energy and direct-ness of Tom Davies had been introduced.

Evertonians have long known that despite the collapse in form under Koeman, there is a lot more talent and potential in the squad than results under the Dutchman suggested. Performances under Allardyce haven't been stellar so far either but the result will again be paramount against Chelsea. Notch another win and it's another big step towards completely changing the outlook for the remainder of the season.

Kick-off: 12:30pm, Saturday, 23rd December, 2017
Referee: Robert Madley
Last Time: Everton 0 - 3 Chelsea

Predicted Line-up: Pickford, Kenny, Holgate, Williams, Martina, Schneiderlin, Gueye, Lennon, Sigurdsson, Rooney, Calvert-Lewin


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