Let's be honest, Rafa Benitez has had the beating of Everton while he was at Liverpool. He is an astute tactician and has always been able to dictate play when his sides take on the Toffees. It's been easier to call the Everton bogeyman the 'fat Spanish waiter' because it suits the fans, but David Moyes will need to pull out something special to get a result against Chelsea in the early game on Sunday.
Chelsea in recent weeks have experienced quite the resurgence - Benitez's squad rotation principles have been paying off, he's not been hesitant to play the youngsters and even a colossal waste of money (no, not Andy Carroll) by the name of Fernando Torres has found his scoring touch, as much of an oxymoron as that might sound like. They have scored 26 goals in their last seven games across numerous competitions, and have conceded only six in that time too.
Everton on the other hand are struggling with lack of squad depth as injuries have taken their toll, and only scraped together two wins in a row thanks to some stellar performances from Leon Osman and Steven Pienaar. Sunday's game will be a true test of their bottle and Moyes' mettle as they attempt to slow down a Chelsea juggernaut.
Team News -
The big news for Everton is that Darron Gibson had his suspension rescinded and is available for this game, however a recurrence of a previous thigh strain could mean a late fitness test for him. Seamus Coleman could also feature in this game, but Tony Hibbert and Kevin Mirallas remain out as is Marouane Fellaini who is serving the last game of his three-match ban.
For Benitez, John Terry and Oriol Romeu remain out with injuries while Daniel Sturridge will probably be benched as his transfer to Liverpool is looming. Ryan Bertrand will face a late fitness test, but Benitez has an impressive squad to call upon.
Keys To The Game -
Which Moyes shall we see on Sunday? The aggressive one who will attack Chelsea's weaknesses, or the one that will come looking to not lose and get overwhelmed? Assuming Moyes wants to attack, he needs to look no further than Chelsea's weak middle. David Luiz might be a lot of things, but a defensive midfielder like Gibson he is not. John Obi Mikel is stellar at what he does, but Frank Lampard or Ramires can both be exploited by Osman and Pienaar. Can you imagine how terrified the Londoners would have been if Fellaini and Mirallas were both available for this game?
However, Everton cannot get too aggressive in their pressing of the '2' in Chelsea's 4-2-3-1, as Juan Mata and Eden Hazard are swift in their retaliation. Having Gibson might be crucial for the Toffees because I daresay Phil Neville or Thomas Hitzlsperger will struggle against the aforementioned two, as well as Oscar and Victor Moses. Moyes will probably sacrifice counter-attacks for congestion and play a 4-5-1 with Victor Anichebe returning to the bench.
Benitez's abundance of riches is the kind of thing Moyes dreams of. Hazard tired? No problem, Moses can step right in. Lampard out of form? Here comes Ramires. Oscar getting jaded? Lucas Piazon is ready to play. All his boys need to do is basically stick to their strengths, draw Everton towards them and sting the home side with quick balls to Torres upfront. It really is that simple, as Aston Villa found out, and Moyes will have it all to do to disrupt.
Match Facts -
- Everton are unbeaten in thirteen home games in the Premier League, since last season.
- The Toffees are one of two teams unbeaten at home this season, along with Stoke City.
- This is Moyes' 31st game as Everton boss against Chelsea, matching Howard Kendall's record against Liverpool.
- Chelsea have only beaten Everton once in the last eight games, with three losses and four draws.
- The Londoners have had 44 shots in their last two League games, scoring nine times.
- Rafa Benitez has won five and drawn one of his last six games against Everton.