Resurgent Everton welcome the champions to Goodison Park in the Saturday early kick off game. Just a month ago, they were hobbling and struggling around the relegation zone and now, are just six points behind 7th placed Spurs, already ahead of Watford who were in a Champions League spot a few months back.
Big Sam has certainly proved to be the right tonic for the Toffees, as they have picked up 4 wins from last 5 outings, still unbeaten. This might prove to be a reality check to examine their true quality and steadiness. Chelsea on the other hand, have enjoyed success in the recent meetings with Everton, be it at home or away. They haven’t yet got closer to Manchester City but nonetheless, have won 8 out of their last 10 games. In the reverse fixture, they thrashed Everton 2-0, a scoreline that doesn’t quite suggest how dominant the Blues were. This time around though, it will not be as easy as it was for Conte’s men.
Here are the three key battles
Gylfi Sigurdsson v N’Golo Kante
The Icelander certainly looks as though he is enjoying his football after he was proving to be a dud following his big-money move. He has created way more chances after the arrival of Sam Allardyce, linked up better, sharpened his passing accuracy and been amongst the goals and assists, like we all have seen him do before.
He will go into the game after an impressive, commanding display against his previous club, Swansea. Of course, he only has a certain Kante to get past in the coming game. The Frenchman will try to choke Sigurdsson for room and considering his work rate, Everton will find it hard to breach the Chelsea defence.
Willian v Cuco Martina
Willian has really come into his own in recent weeks, especially when Conte has needed him because of the feverish festive season. On the back of rich goalscoring form, the absence of Alvaro Morata and a couple of man of the match awards, it is understood that Willian is all set to start and set the field on fire again.
The 29-year-old is always around, keeping the ball, running at defenders, working hard to create something out of nothing etc. His work rate is poisonous for any opposition team. With Pedro on the left and Hazard upfront, Willian will face Cuco Martina down his side, who is a part of a well structured, well constructed Everton back line under Big Sam.
Cesc Fabregas v Idrissa Gueye
If there is one player who adds fluidity and flexibility to this Chelsea attack, it’s Cesc Fabregas. Forget the season stats, even in the previous game against Southampton, once he came off the bench, he gave the Saints a run for their money throughout, till the very end.
Gueye is very much like Kante will be well aware of the fact that if any space is given to the Wizard in front of the centre-backs, he can hurt the opposition. Much to Everton’s dismay, the Spaniard has scored three and created four in his last five visits to Goodison Park.