- Everton have the highest average possession (64.1%) in the 2013-14 Premier League
- Eden Hazard has created a joint league high 10 chances for his Chelsea teammates
- Roberto Martinez has won just one of his last 11 games as a manager in the Premier League
- Chelsea have gone 11 matches without defeat, the longest streak in the league
Chelsea make their way to Goodison Park to take on Everton this Saturday (12:30 pm ET on NBC, watch live via NBC Sports Live Extra) as both sides look to return to winning ways.
For Everton, it’s an opportunity to put the skids on three straight draws and to avoid becoming the fourth side in Premier League history to draw their opening four.
After opening their season with a hard fought 2-2 draw at Norwich, Everton has gone scoreless in their last two matches, drawing at home to West Brom and on the road at Cardiff. The later two matches saw the Toffees create multiple opportunities with Nikica Jelavic, Kevin Mirallas (pictured, above right) and Marouane Fellaini all failing to take their chances.
It’s been over two weeks since Chelsea played their last Premier League fixture, a goalless draw at Old Trafford. For Jose Mourinho, the United clash was a tactical battle where his men sat back and absorbed the Red Devils’ attack, hoping to strike on the counter. The likes of Gary Cahill and John Terry defended well but the Blues showed a lack of desire going forward, failing to create any real threat on goal. Fortunately that style of play – which was no doubt influenced by both the opponent and Mourinho’s focus on the UEFA Super Cup match with Bayern Munich four days later – is one that audiences are unlikely to see come Saturday.
Everton have faired surprisingly well against Chelsea in Merseyside, taking points in eight of their last ten meetings, including six victories. In last year’s corresponding fixture a high-flying Everton took the lead through Steven Pienaar only for Frank Lampard, a notorious Toffee killer, to strike once in each half to hand the Blues all three points. Chelsea then completed the double against Everton on the final day of the season, winning 2-1 behind goals from Fernando Torres and Juan Mata.
Everton are a side still adjusting to the style of play enforced by new manager Roberto Martinez. Formerly a direct, counter-attacking side under David Moyes, Martinez has re-shaped the Toffees into a possession based squad. Everton has responded well to the stylistic adjustment, averaging the highest possession figure (64.1%) in the league while managing to concede only on two occasions. But if the Toffees are to win games they must be more clinical in the box.
Everton were able to snap up Belgian sensation Romelu Lukaku on a season long loan from Chelsea but he will be ineligible to play against his parent club. That means the goal-scoring burden will fall on the shoulders of players like Mirallas, Pienaar and Ross Barkley. And don’t be surprised if Jelavic, who has been ineffective in his first three matches, has a seat in favor of Arouna Kone or Barcelona starlet Gerard Deulofeu.
For Chelsea, a victory on Saturday coupled with a Liverpool loss at Swansea City will see the Blues go top of the Premier League table. The match could see the debut of Samuel Eto’o (pictured, left), who arrived at Stamford Bridge just before the transfer deadline on a free transfer from Anzhi Makhachkala.
It’s unclear whether Eto’o will start but with Torres and Demba Ba failing to impress Mourinho and Andre Schurrle looking more dangerous on the wing, it’s not out of the realm of possibility. The slippery movements of Eto’o, combined with sixth sense positioning, makes him a major threat to Everton center-backs Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin.
Regardless of the lineup Mourinho chooses, the message will be the same: consistency. Chelsea have shown flashes of brilliance, particularly in the first half of the 2-0 win over Hull City and throughout much of the Super Cup, but have yet to provide a complete performance worthy of the talent they possess.
See how the battle of the blues pans out this Saturday, at 12:30 pm ET live on NBC and online via NBC Sports Live Extra.
What They’re Saying
Everton manager Roberto Martinez [on Mourinho]: “He’s one of the best managers in world football and there’s no denying that. Our league wants them and it’s good for everyone to have the best at each job. I think whoever plays against Chelsea this season is going to have a real test, but in the same manner we feel it is a fresh start for us.”
Chelsea defender John Terry [on Eto’o]: “I said to him (Eto’o) thank god you’re here because I’ve had so many battles against him. He’s such a threat, he’s obviously a few years older but he still looks very sharp and hungry. He’s got an eye for goal and I think he’ll be a good addition, he was welcomed straight into the squad.”
Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard [on Cahill]: “Gary has been consistent in a lot of difficult games we have played like the Champions League and Europa League finals. He has always performed fantastically well on those occasions. He has come on so much considering he’s only been with us [Chelsea] a couple of years and is now first choice for England.”
Chelsea come into the match in good health and with plenty of offensive firepower. The Blues will be looking to buckle down and focus on the Premier League and so long as they put in a consistent performance, will remain favorites to win. But despite not winning a match, Everton have played some good football only to come up short on the offensive end. With a bit more bite in the box and Seamus Coleman and James McCarthy shaking off minor injuries, the Toffees will compete and I think this one ends in a draw.