José Mourinho’s Chelsea travel to Merseyside to face Roberto Martinez’s Everton in Saturday’s English Premier League marquee matchup. Everton finished the 2013-14 season in fifth place, just two places behind Chelsea. Sharing the points from these fixtures last season, the Toffees defeated Chelsea at home, yet lost to the Blues when they travelled to Stamford Bridge. Both fixtures ended 1-0 featuring some cagey, end-to-end action and we can expect tomorrow’s contest to be quite similar.
Despite strengthening their respective sides in the offseason, Chelsea have arguably done the better business by signing Spaniards Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas, among others. Everton have signed former Chelsea loanee Romelu Lukaku and former Chelsea striker Samuel Eto’o to bolster their strikeforce, and this could end up being a reunion of sorts for the frontmen. Fernando Torres has sealed a loan move to AC Milan on a two-year deal, which sees the underperforming striker finally making his way out of London. As such, Chelsea are rumoured to be chasing the signature of AS Roma’s Mattia Destro and QPR’s Loic Remy. Still, no new striker will be joining the Blues between now and kickoff, so Mourinho will have to settle for Diego Costa and Didier Drogba.
Having never actually earned his place at Chelsea, Romelu Lukaku will be playing with a point to prove. The big Belgian spent the last two seasons on loan from Chelsea at West Bromwich Albion and Everton, respectively, yet still couldn’t manage to convince Mourinho he deserved a spot in the Blues’ squad. However, as Everton’s record signing and new No. 10, it appears that has certainly proven his worth to his new manager and the Everton faithful. Unfortunately, the Belgian suffered a toe injury in the match against Arsenal, and it is not certain that he will be in Martinez’s first team.
Eto’o, who last season was jokingly dubbed as an “old man” by Mourinho, will likely want to feature if he can be fit in time for team selections. The Cameroonian scored nine league goals for Chelsea, all at Stamford Bridge. Even if he does not feature, Martinez has other forwards upon whom he can rely. Steven Naismith performed admirably against Arsenal in the Toffees’ 2-2 draw with the Gunners last week, and will probably be picked ahead of Eto’o. Everton lined up in a 4-2-3-1 last week when they faced Arsenal, and it would not be surprising if the same team and formation are fielded again. Unfortunately for Martinez, he will not be able to call upon Christian Atsu, the Ghanaian winger who joined Everton on loan from Chelsea just two weeks ago.
Everton’s worries lie with injuries to key players, as Steven Pienaar, Bryan Oviedo and starlet Ross Barkley are all unable to feature for the Toffees. Aiden McGeady will most likely be filling in for the injured Steven Pienaar, who came off after just 10 minutes in the Toffees’ clash with Arsenal. Arouna Kone and Darren Gibson are both still struggling to regain match fitness after lengthy spells away from first-team action. Lukaku’s toe injury will be assessed pre-match and the decision to play him or not will likely come not long before kickoff.
Chelsea’s injury woes center around new signing Diego Costa, who was said to have injured a hamstring in training this week. André Schürrle also picked up a knock in his last match, so it’s possible Willian will make his first start of the season. Reports from Friday afternoon have reassured Blues fans, as Costa’s injury was deemed minor and it is likely he will feature, regardless.
Chelsea will be looking to maintain their perfect start to the season, while Everton will be looking to earn their first victory. In recent seasons, Everton and Chelsea have shared the victories in this fixture, and despite many an analyst tipping Chelsea to be one of the favorites for the title this year, Everton’s performance against Arsenal has proven that they are not to be taken lightly. However, with so many key injuries, and facing Chelsea’s strength in depth, it will be difficult for the Toffees to pull off a home win against the Blues.