The John Stones saga is now behind us, and he remains an Everton player (until January at least). Now Stones and Everton must turn their attention to defending Premier League champions, Chelsea. Jose Mourinho's men have been struggling mightily this season and their title defense appears to already be in doubt despite playing only four games.
Fortunately for Everton, all of their key players have emerged from the international break without injury and ready to take on Chelsea. Everton are winless in their last three outings against the London club, but this may be the week the Toffees break that streak as Chelsea defense appears to be in shambles. This is a game that screams out for Kevin Mirallas or Gerard Deulofeu to start on the left to attack Branislav Ivanovic who has looked significantly off the pace this season. Arouna Kone on the wing should be shelved for now as Everton's lack of width has hurt them in recent games. With a player like Nemanja Matic in the middle of the park it would be wise to utilize the wings, though the Serbian has also been poor along with Cesc Fabregas.
Romelu Lukaku and Mirallas should be well rested heading into this game, having played minimally for Belgium, and will need to be on top of their attacking game if they want to wrestle points away from Chelsea. Stones and Phil Jagielka played a bigger role while away with England as the center back pairing in a 6-0 win against San Marino.
Chelsea have looked nothing like the unstoppable force they were last season. Their defense, which was key to their title last season, has been awful as John Terry, Gary Cahill and Branislav Ivanovic have looked slow and unconvincing thus far. Add in the likely absence of star goalkeeper Thibault Courtois and Chelsea look even worse at the back. Chelsea haven't even looked convincing in their lone win this season, a 3-2 win at the Hawthorns against West Brom. Chelsea were fantastic at grabbing leads last season and simply shutting the doors on the opposing team, making it nearly impossible to score. Four games in, they have yet to record a single clean sheet.
On the offensive side of the ball, things are better, but not by much. Chelsea have been able to score some goals this season, but star midfielder Eden Hazard has yet to get in on the fun for his club. The Belgian international was able to bag 14 goals and nine assists last season, but has registered one assist and zero goals to date. It's more than likely that a player of Hazard's caliber will get rolling soon enough, let's just hope it isn't against Everton.
Everton's woes at left back continue as the team may be without Bryan Oviedo this weekend. Brendan Galloway should be available to start at left back, but if he is not, Roberto Martinez said he will turn to new signing Ramiro Funes Mori. If Funes Mori does start, that would make him the third left back to start in this already young season. Meanwhile, the usual suspects of Tony Hibbert, Darron Gibson and Steven Pienaar are still out for the foreseeable future.
Chelsea ‘keeper Thibault Courtois suffered a knee injury in training on Wednesday and his status is in doubt for Saturday's match. Should he miss the game, new signing Asmir Begovic would likely start in his pace.
Chelsea have been a very good team over the past several years and Everton have certainly struggled to get results against them. However, with Chelsea's defense struggling and their star goalkeeper likely out, the Toffees have a golden opportunity to secure three points against the defending champions.
Howard; Coleman, Stones, Jagielka, Galloway; Barry, McCarthy; Naismith, Barkley, Mirallas; Lukaku.