Match Preview: Chelsea vs Everton- Big guns return in battle of the Blues
Captain John Terry and midfield maestro Michael Essien are expected to return for Chelsea as they entertain Everton in a vital game at Stamford Bridge this weekend.
The Blues have slumped to a dismal run of results during November, winning just one league game in four and relinquishing their position as Premier League leaders to rivals Manchester United. However fans will be delighted with the news that two of their big hitters will return to action in an attempt to spearhead a counter-offensive on 1st place.
Terry has been absent from the side for three weeks with a sciatic nerve problem in his leg and has not played since the last time Chelsea won in the league; a narrow 1-0 home win against Fulham. In fact Terry’s absence coincided with the side’s slump into poor form; without the influential defender Chelsea went down 3-0 at home to Sunderland. Essien has also been missing for the same number of games although the Ghanaian returns to the squad after a 3-match suspension. Chelsea will welcome back a steeliness and robustness that has been missing with Terry out of the team, and they will be desperate to reclaim the bite and enthusiasm that Essien brings to the midfield.
Couple these missing qualities with a lack of cutting edge over the last few weeks, and it is clear to see where Chelsea have been going wrong. Unsure at the back without their leader, toothless in midfield and uncertain in front of goal; Chelsea have looked a shell of the team that began the season with such merciless conviction. However a new month brings fresh optimism and it is amazing how the forecast begins to look so much sunnier with the return of a few big players. The Captain is back to steady the ship and has been voicing his opinion on the club’s recent turmoil:
“We need to get back to winning ways sooner rather than later. I think we have played well the last couple of games and on another day three or four may have gone in.” said Terry.
A sound assessment of the Blues last few fixtures, but not the whole truth. It is true that Carlo Ancelotti’s side have missed several gilt edged chances in games in which they have dropped points: Salomon Kalou will not need reminding of his glaring miss at Newcastle last weekend, and a second half assault on Liverpool almost a month ago yielded many chances but no goals.
But it is not just their recent failings in front of goal; it is at the opposite end of the pitch where the problems stem. This Chelsea side have made their name scoring goals, but they have also built a reputation for keeping the opposition out. Unfortunately, teams do not concede three goals on their own patch if they plan on winning games and championships (Everton will be all too aware of that after last weeks lesson from West Brom). Yet that is exactly what they did against Sunderland three weeks ago and the sloppy defending that allowed Andy Carroll to score an early opener last week plays testament to this.
This is the problem that needs immediate attention, and Chelsea fans will be thankful that their skipper and influential leader will return to the side’s frail defence to patch up the leaks:
“We have been a bit unfortunate with a couple of goals we have let in as well, admitted the Blues skipper.
“I think overall defensively, midfield and attack, we’ve not been as good as we should have been. That’s because we set our standards so high and started the season so well.”
And with the return of two of their biggest stars, Chelsea need to get back to those sky high standards sooner rather than later, before they relinquish even more points in the race for the title. But they come up against an Everton side who are also looking to turn that elusive corner. The Merseyside Blues have been suffering from their annual poor start to the season which is becoming far too frequent for fans of the Goodison Park outfit. They find themselves just one point better off than they were at this stage last term after what is considered to be only a slightly better season than last. They have failed to win since their 2-0 defeat of bitter rivals Liverpool, but that was over 6 weeks ago, and fans are beginning to fear this is more than just a poor start to the season after a humiliating 4-1 loss at home to West Brom.
But the last four meetings between these two sides at the Bridge have been draws, and the last time they played each other Everton came out 2-1 winners, coming from behind in February of this year. So it will not be a mere formality for Chelsea. And whilst they have found December a bleak struggle in recent times, Everton have used the festive period to cheer themselves up and have often found their season rejuvenated by a strong December run. Hoping it is not written in the stars, Blues fans will also be hopeful that the return of their own stars will be enough to bring them victory. A win here against a good Everton side could give the team a timely lift that would see them flying high in the Premier League.
Chelsea: Terry and Essien come back into the side in the likely expense of the injured Alex and midfielder Ramires, respectively. Frank Lampard is close to a return but is not expected to be rushed into this one. Yuri Zhirkov and Yossi Benayoun remain long-term absentees.
Everton: The Toffee’s own skipper Phil Neville returns after missing the 4-1 defeat to West Brom. Tony Hibbert will miss out after suffering a cut to his ankle, while Phil Jagielka is a doubt. Mikel Arteta serves the first of a three game suspension but the influential Marouane Fellaini returns from his disciplinary to take his place.
Possible Line Ups
Chelsea: Cech, Cole, Terry, Ivanovich, Bosingwa, Essien, Mikel, Malouda, Kalou, Anelka, Drogba
Everton: Howard, Baines, Jagielka, Distin, Neville, Fellaini, Heitinga, Pienaar, Coleman, Cahill, Saha
Will the return of Terry and Essien be enough to galvanise the side?…How important is it to make December a winning month?…Do Everton pose a threat to Chelsea’s chances?…please leave your comments below…
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