Everton vs. Chelsea
Venue: Goodison Park
Everton play host to Chelsea this afternoon knowing that three points will take the club into eighth spot in the Premier League table and extend Sam Allardyce’s unbeaten start at Goodison Park to six matches.
Chelsea make the trip to Merseyside sitting comfortably in third position, but an away victory over the Toffees would take the West Londoners level on points with second-place Manchester United.
Before the start of the campaign, Everton would have had ambitions to finish inside the top six of the standings in May and even though the club endured a miserable couple of months under Ronald Koeman, they can still achieve their target come the end of the campaign.
Everton remain the underdogs but with Allardyce at the helm, there is now belief that points can be earned against the division’s top clubs. The 1-1 draw in the Merseyside derby was somewhat fortuitous but it was proof that Allardyce is relishing the chance to come up with a formula to upstage some of the top-flight’s most illustrious clubs.
Everton’s next five league fixtures include Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur – as well as trips to West Bromwich Albion and Bournemouth – and there is a need to maintain the team’s momentum heading into those matches over the Christmas and New Year period.
A rejuvenated Wayne Rooney will no doubt need to add to his 10 league goals this season, but the likes of Ashley Williams and Gylfi Sigurdsson also have a duty to continue their improvements in form after a below-par start to the season.
Chelsea are probably too far away from leaders Manchester City to mount any sort of a challenge for the league title, but Antonio Conte’s side are performing efficiently enough to suggest that they are keen to finish no lower than second place by the end of the campaign.
The 1-0 defeat at West Ham United could have led to the Blues faltering throughout December but three wins in a row in all competitions has gotten Conte’s men back on track ahead of a crucial stage of the season.
Last weekend’s 1-0 triumph over Southampton was not pretty – neither was the narrow success against Bournemouth in the EFL Cup on Wednesday – but Chelsea have now won 11 of their last 15 matches in all competitions, with two draws also coming against Liverpool and Atletico Madrid during that period.
Everton possible starting lineup: Pickford, Kenny, Holgate, Williams, Martina, Gueye, Schneiderlin, Lennon, Rooney, Sigurdsson, Calvert-Lewin.
Chelsea possible starting lineup: Courtois, Azpilicueta, Christensen, Cahill, Moses, Kante, Bakayoko, Alonso, Fabregas, Pedro, Hazard.