Everton vs Chelsea: Match Preview

Pienaar: one of the few Everton players to have had success against Chelsea - Michael Regan

Everton face their first stern challenge of this season with the visit of fellow Blues Chelsea in Saturday's highlight game.

The Good:

This is the first game for Everton since the transfer window closed, and there is little doubt that Roberto Martinez came through on his word that the team would be stronger at the end of the window. New additions James McCarthy, Gareth Barry and Romelu Lukaku bring in some solid depth with Premier League experience. The board parlayed the cash from the sale of Marouane Fellaini (4 million over escape clause) and Victor Anichebe (The Great Nigerian Train Robbery) into the three players, and hopefully enough to give star Leighton Baines a hefty pay-raise, which almost counts as a signing in itself.

The Bad:

Everton have been off to a false start in this year's campaign. Three draws in three games was not what the fanbase had envisioned for this season. The Blues have dominated possession, leading the League with 64.1% of the ball. They have successfully converted that possession into 18.3 shots per game, another stat in which they lead the League. How then have Everton only scored two miserable goals all season?! Which then leads us to...

The Ugly:

The strikeforce. It's been really ugly. It takes a special kind of ineptitude for a team to score just two goals from fifty five shots. Unless every goalkeeper Everton faces magically turns into Neville Southall, there is simply no excuse for the forwards to keep firing blanks. Nikica Jelavic has been wretched, with just two goals in 2013: one against Cheltenham and one against Manchester City. Arouna Kone has been even worse (if that were possible) since he came to Goodison. And Lukaku is ineligible to face Chelsea this weekend. Be very afraid.

Team News -

Irish internationals McCarthy and Seamus Coleman returned dinged up from World Cup qualifiers duty, and will face late fitness tests. Another Irishman Darron Gibson is recovering well from his injury, and along with defender Antolin Alcaraz, has been training with the first team but will not be ready for this weekend.

Chelsea have injury doubts over Oscar and Eden Hazard, but with the likes of Juan Mata, Toffee-killer Frank Lampard, Kevin De Bruyne, Andre Schurrle, Ramirez, new signing Willian and twenty-four other midfielders in the side, they will hardly be missed. Another transfer window signing, the seemingly ageless Samuel Eto'o, could also feature in an attack that is otherwise led by Fernando Torres. As abysmal as he has been, his futility as a striker has only been surpassed by our own Jelavic.

Keys To The Game -

Martinez might be licking his chops at facing one of the great minds in the game Jose Mourinho, but having failed to beat Chris Hughton, Steve Clarke and the Malky Mackay, we should temper our expectations for Saturday. Mourinho's side have been notoriously difficult to break down defensively and Everton are struggling mightily to put the ball in the net, a disastrous combination.

Everton cannot afford to give Chelsea time and space with the ball in the middle of the park. Keeping up the pressure for ninety minutes might be their best shot at winning this one - that and getting the ball over the goalline, of course.

Match Facts -

  • Everton have never beaten a Mourinho-led side - two draws and four losses in six League meetings
  • Martinez has won just one of his last eleven Premier League matches, spanning Wigan and Everton.
  • The Toffees have nine clean sheets in their last thirteen fixtures.
  • Everton are averaging 519 passes/game so far - up by over a hundred from 416 passes/game last season.
  • Chelsea are unbeaten in eleven matches, the longest active streak in the League.
  • The London side have only won twice in their last ten trips to Merseyside.
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