Chelsea are top of the Premier League and whilst they were knocked out of the FA Cup last weekend they are still competing on two fronts and in with a great chance of success in the league or Champions League. However, with Arsenal, Man City and Liverpool maintaining a relentless pace just behind them they simply have to keep winning if they are to end the season as a prize-winning thoroughbred rather than a show pony or also ran. So, on to the runners and riders here…
Everton, with Roberto Martinez in the saddle… okay, we’ll stop the horse metaphors now, but Jose started it and if it’s good enough for the Special One, well, it’s good enough for us here at LCN! Anyway, Everton, managed by the likeable Martinez, are having a solid season and progressed to the FA Cup quarters at the weekend with a 3-1 home win over Swansea. They weren’t at their best though, and having lost two of their last three in the league – away at Spurs and Liverpool – they will be keen to bounce back and get three more points in the league.
Of course, the Pensioners too will be keen to get a win under their belts after the 2-0 FA Cup defeat at City and the 1-1 draw at West Brom in the league prior to that. Moreover, Mourinho and co will want some revenge after their 1-0 loss at Goodison Park back in September when Steven Naismith’s goal was enough to see the Toffees take the spoils. Chelsea were a tad unlucky that day, dominating possession and having twice as many shots as their opponents (though, symptomatic of how their season has developed, the same number on target – just five from 22) but at this stage of the campaign hard luck stories don’t matter, only points.
In terms of points these sides have been very evenly matched and, in fact, in the last 14 league games between them the record is even, with four wins each and six draws. Almost all of those wins have been by a single goal and so we can be relatively confident this game will be another close affair. The recent head to head record is littered with 0-0s and 1-1s and given Chelsea have the best defence in the top flight and Everton the division’s third best, this one seems unlikely to be a goalfest.
Romelu Lukaku, the best striker that the home side don’t have at their disposal after loaning him out to the Toffees, may be fit for Everton but will not be allowed to play against his parent club. This means that neither side will have a top notch striker, in form, confident and likely to register. Both offer a good threat from midfield though and it is Chelsea’s superiority here and, of course, home advantage, that lead us to believe they will just about do enough to get the result. Another clean sheet for Petr Cech and co and perfect revenge for the reverse fixture are the order of the day here.
LCN Verdict: Chelsea to win 1-0