Everton vs Chelsea- The Preview
It is fair to say that Chelsea's start to the season hasn't been the most challenging on paper. Although Leicester and Burnley both provided stiff tests for the dynamic nature of Chelsea, we breezed past both encounters with relative ease. However, today's encounter on Merseyside provides our first real test against top six quality opposition. Having lost the corresponding fixture from the 13/14 season, Chelsea will be out for revenge. The Everton-Chelsea clash last September was one of the first games where our lack of a predatory striker became glaringly apparent and, having completed a loan deal for Torres last night, we could be left a little short this evening. Everton have endured an anti-climatic start to the season, picking up two points from their opening fixtures. The stage is set. Let the battle commence...
Mourinho on Diego Costa-
'In this moment I can`t say much. We are trying everything for him to play tomorrow. He didn`t train for the last two days, but today is the last day and we must make a decision to select him or not. He has to try a light training session to see if the reaction is positive. If it is we take him to Everton to play or be on the bench; if the reaction is not positive today then obviously we don`t select him. Let's see.'
Mourinho on the CL Group Stage Draw-
'Your question says everything: on paper. At the end of the day we play against a German team: Germans are Germans, world champions, good league, good teams, strong guys. We played them twice last season and beat them twice, but nobody can say we beat them twice this season so they are difficult.
'I always respect Portuguese teams a lot, and not because I`m Portuguese but because I know them well. If the league is not a very strong league, the three big teams are big teams, with potential, history, status, and experienced players without fear of the big moments. Sporting is a difficult opponent.
'Maribor brings the danger of the new guys. They have nothing to lose, everything to win, they`ve made already big money for a Slovenian club by participating, and now they will fight for points. I could see the match against Celtic. Celtic Park is difficult for everybody. They went there and played with big personality. They will take points from the other teams.
'It`s a group with balance. The thing I like in the group is that we don`t have long, long journeys. Every time we are in the Champions League we than play Man City, Man United, Liverpool and Arsenal - it`s a difficult situation but one to enjoy.`
Everton FC Team News:
Everton's strike force is a pretty decent reflection of Chelsea last year but we ay not get to see either of the guys in question this evening. Eto'o, having signed a two year deal in the week, is undergoing fitness assessments while Romelu Lukaku has a toe injury and is therefore a doubt for this evening's clash. Midfielder Steven Pienaar is definitely missing through a groin injury while midfield duo Ross Barkley (knee) and Bryan Oviedo (leg) remain sidelined.
Player to watch: Gareth Barry
An odd choice some may say but allow me to explain. Barry is, in many ways, EVerton's answer to Nemanja Matic and, if you look at it that way, Matic has been hailed as one of Chelsea's most important players of late. Barry provides that solid cover in front of a strong back four and his physical strength and passing range means the midfield battle will be key this evening. He's a great fighter and won't allow flair players, such as Fabregas or Oscar, time on the ball. He was exceptional against us last season and, having watched his performance against Arsenal last week, he's my man to watch this afternoon.
Chelsea FC Team News:
Today's team selection was a difficult one. With Costa consigned to the bench after a 'minor muscular' injury along with Andre Schurrle who suffered a leg injury during our victory against Leicester, we're left short going forward. At the back, things will be unchanged. Courtois will remain in goal after an exceptional performance last weekend while the back four will remain untouched- this is not the right game to give Filipe Luis his debut. Azpilicueta will likely be handed Seamus Coleman to track and, as one of the best man markers in the game, the young Spaniard is the ideal man for the job.
The versatile duo of Matic and Fabregas will be our mainstay in the middle of the park although they will look to impose themselves a little more than against Leicester- it is essential that we dominate the midfield battle. I think they'll be joined by the energy and power of Ramires, who will provide extra cover and is a willing runner albeit not a great technical footballer.
The three behind the striker was tough so I opted for a 4-3-3 formation. I've been calling for Mourinho to drop Oscar as the Brazilian playmaker looks lethargic and a yard short of pace. Off the back of the Special One's track record, today would be an ideal opportunity as I think we will set up with cover in mind. Willian may be handed his first start in place of Schurrle while Hazard will take his place on the left side but expect to see him popping up all over the pitch. Drogba may be handed his first start since retur
Player to watch: Eden Hazard
The Belgian midfielder set the Premier League alight last season, finishing as Chelsea's top scorer and holding the PFA Young Player of the Year award. He took a while to get into his stride against Leicester but had a great impact in the latter stages, closing out the game with another well taken goal. I hope he steps on this evening; it is crucial that Hazard raises his game to match the occasion. There are no bounds to his potential and he must start playing the role of match-changer more consistently if he wants to catapult himself to the Messi/Ronaldo echelons of footballing heritage. He'll be key coming up against Sylvain Distin and, probably, Seamus Coleman.
Match Facts & Stats
Jonathan Moss- Was the fourth official in that infamous away fixture against Aston Villa last season.
Chelsea aren't at full strength but, hopefully, neither are Everton. Both teams could be lacking in the striking department and I'm praying neither Lukaku or Eto'o are fit. I think we can win this evening but we need to click out of first gear quicker; Everton will take their chances much more prolifically and we can't afford to be 2-0 down by the time we realise the game has started. I'm going to settle for a 2-1 victory for Chelsea.
West Brom vs Everton- September 13th
Chelsea vs Swansea- September 13th