Chelsea v Everton. The Everton Forum preview
In my last preview I was quite downbeat on Everton’s chances against Manchester City on Monday. Yet, with the way the game unfolded, I came away from the match feeling disappointed we couldn’t get the 3 points.
It wasn’t the most eye-catching of Everton teams but the game plan was pretty much spot on from blues boss Ronald Koeman. We simply don’t have the players to go toe-to-toe and take the game to City so we played it to our strengths; we were combative in midfield, solid at the back and most importantly we took the chance that came to us.
A very talented Manchester City outfit were limited to bits and bobs around our penalty area and but for one defining defensive lapse, we could’ve easily taken the three points back to Goodison.
This Sunday, with barely two days rest after Hajduk Split away, the blues have another fearsome away when they play at Chelsea at Stamford Bridge (1.30pm kick off).
Although our fixtures to start the season can be considered daunting and unfortunate, sometimes it’s beneficial to get these away games out of the way nice and early before the best teams really get into their stride.
Of course, they’re really tough games that could easily be lost but there’s just that little chance that the better teams will still have players who aren’t match fit, new tactics that are yet to sink in or, new signings who haven’t settled in.
Whether any of those factors came into play for Chelsea’s shock 2-3 defeat against Burnley is debatable (2 red cards will clearly impact any team at any stage of the season) but I believe there’s still some potential for Everton catch Chelsea on the hop on Sunday.
Whilst the Burnley result was certainly a big disappointment for Chelsea manager Antonio Conte, the Italian must’ve been really pleased with the way his side bounced back against Tottenham last week.
I watched that match and found it to be quite an interesting tactical match-up as Conte, knowing he had some issues with injuries and suspensions, chose to deploy a different system from his typical 3-4-3.
The Chelsea coach plumped for a back 3 with wing backs, 1 central defender in a defensive midfield role, 2 box-to-box central midfielders and 2 forwards. It looked a defensive side, built to be solid first and foremost but it also included a number of leggy players who could quickly hurt Spurs on the counter attack.
Although that was a plan that worked for Chelsea in the Spurs game with them taking the 3 points, I would be surprised if Conte went for such a defensive shape against what will surely be a weary Everton side at Stamford Bridge.
I personally think the Chelsea boss will revert back to us usual 3-4-3 system for the match with us and we’ll see a recall for the Spanish winger Pedro, meaning the below could start –
Two other great options Chelsea may have available for this match are Cesc Fabregas and Eden Hazard.
Of the two, I feel Fabregas would be more likely to start here, particularly if Conte is concerned about breaking through what will almost certainly be a stubborn Everton rearguard.
Eden Hazard, Everton’s destroyer-in-chief at Stamford Bridge last season, has a small chance of being on the bench for this game but given the severity of his injury I’d be quite surprised if he was rushed into action this side of the international break.
Chelsea club captain Gary Cahill remains sidelined following his straight red card on the opening day of the season.
I must admit that I wasn’t wowed by he Hajduk Split away performance on Thursday night, but I feel it’s really harsh to be over critical of this group of players based on that showing.
When you consider that we have a young side with a number of new faces who didn’t have 2 full days rest after a really tough game at Manchester City, Everton could be excused from looking a little jaded in Croatia.
So I won’t be negative and instead I’ll focus on the bottom line from last Thursday; a young, lacking match fitness and tired Everton team went to a really tough place and did what they had to to progress to the next stage. If we can’t take that as a positive, we’re judging the wrong game.
Moving onto the Chelsea match, the obvious concern for me is going to be around fatigue. Ronald Koeman had to use the majority of the team who started at the Etihad on Monday on Thursday so it seems likely that the majority of those lads will be asked to go and do it all over again – a the home of the Premier League champions, no less *gulp*.
I’m fairly certain we will see a sprinkling of ‘fresh’ players at Stamford Bridge but I don’t see that being more than 3 or 4, with Mason Holgate, Phil Jagielka, Idrissa Gana Gueye and Tom Davies being the 4 regulars that spring to mind who didn’t start in Split.
In terms of the Everton game plan, I think we’re likely to see a very similar set up to that of the Etihad, where Koeman deployed a back 5, 3 combative central midfield players and 2 attacking players.
Presuming Phil Jagielka and Mason Holgate return to the Everton starting 11, the same back 5 that did so well at City would be deployed at Stamford Bridge, however, the suspension to Morgan Schneiderlin means somebody else will need to shield that defence.
It’ll be interesting to see who Koeman picks here because his go-to back up for Schneiderlin last season (Gareth Barry) now plays for West Brom.
Given the lack of options we have to play that role due to other injuries, it seems most likely that Mo Besic will start at Chesea.
Before I doubt his ability (mainly his discipline, positional and otherwise) to play in the role vacated by Schneiderlin, I’ve got to say I have concerns about starting a player so prone to injury twice in the space of less than 3 days. It seems like a big ask but we’re probably at the point with Besic when it’s now or never, so he needs to grab this chance with both hands regardless of any fatigue.
The other two in midfield area seem likely to be Idrissa Gueye (who I expect to start despite being doubtful) and Tom Davies. Both should be fairly fresh so you’d like to think they can provide some much-needed energy in the middle of the park to combat Chelsea’s fierce work rate in there.
One man who might’ve been in line for inclusion in our midfield on Sunday, Davy Klaassen, has been ruled out until after the international break.
Who plays up front will depend on Koeman’s idea for Wayne Rooney.
Although I’ve raised concerns over Rooney starting all 4 games in this tough period, I really can’t see Koeman putting him on the bench at Chelsea so it becomes a question of where he plays.
Personally (presuming Sandro remains sidelined with injury) I’d start him in behind Dominic Calvert-Lewin but there’s always the chance Gylfi Sigurdsson or the fresh legs of Kevin Mirallas could be selected in behind Rooney.
My predicted Everton starting 11 for this one is (5-3-2): Pickford, Holgate, Jagielka, Williams, Keane, Baines, Gana, Davies, Besic, Rooney, Calvert-Lewin.
I expect this to be another game when we’ll sit deep and the emphasis will be on our hosts to break us down. I don’t think Chelsea have the weaponry that City have individually but physically they’re going to provide more of a test for us than City did.
I think this is a game when keeping the clean sheet for as long as possible will be key for us. If we concede early, I’d really worry about our ability to get back into the game and fear for us if we threw caution to the wind too early.
In terms of a result, given the week we’ve had, I’d happily take a draw here. Some might say that’s small-time thinking but if we can stay unbeaten having already played City and Chelsea away, with 1 win in the bank and Europa League qualification group qualification assured – that has to be a positive start to the season, right?
Finally, the referee is Jon Moss. The same guy who allowed Ivanovic to headlock James McCarthy in this fixture 2 or 3 years ago without punishment. He’s absolutely dreadful and rarely goes against the ‘bigger’ club.
Anyway, we know we can get a result here, let’s dig deep and go to this international break on a high! COYB!!