Venue: Goodison Park
Kick off: 5:30PM
In-form Chelsea will be looking to maintain their momentum when they take on a struggling Everton side in the Premier League this afternoon.
Blues boss Maurizio Sarri no longer appears at immediate risk of being sacked, but the same is not true of opposite number Marco Silva, who could do with a positive result to take into the international break.
Sarri will be grateful that his side are no longer the media’s ‘crisis club’ of choice, having seen his side go five matches without defeat – seven if you include the EFL Cup final against Manchester City, which finished 0-0 after 180 minutes.
Chelsea lost that tie on penalties to deny Sarri his first silverware in English football, but the manner of his side’s performance – two weeks on from losing 6-0 to the same side in the Premier League – ensured that he was given a couple more games to prove himself.
The Blues have since cruised past Dynamo Kiev to qualify for the last eight of the Europa League, as well as taking seven points from league games against Tottenham Hotspur, Fulham and Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Sarri would have been disappointed to only come away with a 1-1 draw against Wolves, but even that had a feel-good nature to it as Eden Hazard struck a couple of minutes from the end to cancel out Raul Jimenez’s breakaway opener.
Wolves had just one real effort of note all afternoon last weekend, though that will surely not be the case with Everton at Goodison Park as the Toffees will be under pressure to attack in front of their supporters.
If the draw with Wanderers was a frustrating day on the whole for Chelsea, then Thursday night‘s trip to Dynamo Kiev for the second leg of their Europa League last-16 tie offered a perfect chance to let off some steam.
Winning the Europa League and finishing fourth in the Premier League would make this a positive first season for Sarri, who it must be remembered has improved Chelsea’s points tally from this stage 12 months ago.
Chelsea’s top-four fate is still in their hands, even if they do currently reside in sixth, as they have a game in hand against Brighton & Hove Albion to fit in between now and the end of the season.
With Arsenal, Manchester United and Tottenham not in action this weekend, this is Chelsea’s big chance to potentially climb a couple of places and move to within a point of third, leaving the Blues nicely positioned heading into the final stretch of an up-and-down season.
On the other hand, much was expected of Everton this season after finally landing their top managerial target in Silva, though with just two months to go the Toffees’ campaign is badly petering out.
Seventh was always ultimately the most Silva could aim for in his first season at Goodison Park, but even that target now looks out of reach as his side trail Wolverhampton Wanderers by seven points.
Last week’s 3-2 loss at Newcastle United, in a match that Everton led by two goals with just over 25 minutes to play, leaves them in the bottom half of the table and serious questions are now being asked of the manager.
The pressure is clearly starting to get to Silva, who cost Everton a £4 million compensation fee after they made an illegal approach to Watford, as he confronted referee Lee Mason at the end of the match at St James’ Park and now faces a touchline ban.
With a two-week break to come after this weekend’s match, there are suggestions that Everton could be about to cut their losses just 10 months into the Portuguese’s tenure. Victory, then, or a hard-earned draw, has to be the target.
Everton possible XI: Pickford, Coleman, Keane, Mina, Digne, Gueye, Gomes, Richarlison, Sigurdsson, Bernard, Calvert-Lewin.
Chelsea possible XI: Kepa, Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Luiz, Emerson, Kante, Jorginho, Barkley, Pedro, Giroud, Hazard.