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Everton at Chelsea: Match Preview

Stu Forster/Getty Images

Everton travel to Stamford Bridge to play Chelsea on Saturday hoping to continue their positive start to 2016.

The Toffees are unbeaten in four games since the turn of the year and - perhaps more importantly - have tightened up at the back.

Everton have conceded just two goals in their two wins and two draws so far this month, with their dogged display against Man City on Wednesday their most eye-catching defensive display of the season.

It was the type of performance David Moyes’ teams became famous for producing and comes in stark contrast to some of the chaotic performances we witnessed in December, that saw Everton ship seven goals in successive home games over Christmas.

If they can combine that newfound defensive resilience with their sparkling attacking prowess then we could be in business.

For that reason Everton go into the weekend game with Chelsea with arguably their best chance of getting a result in 20 years.

However, given the Blues haven’t won at the Bridge since November 1994 we shouldn’t be getting carried away.

The opposition

Chelsea’s collapse from being runaway champions in May to the division’s bottom dwellers in December has been one of the more remarkable stories in recent years.

It has already accounted for manager Jose Mourinho, with Guus Hiddink once again stepping into the breach as interim boss.

Hiddink took temporary charge in February 2009 following the departure of Luiz Filipe Scolari, leading the side to an FA Cup win over Everton the following May.

The Dutchman has steadied the ship following Mourinho’s departure and has yet to lose in his six games in charge so far.

However, three of those have been draws, most recently Wednesday’s 2-2 draw at home to West Brom.

It leaves the Londoners languishing in 14th place, six points above the relegation zone though only four points behind Everton in 11th.

Team news

Roberto Martinez says Tom Cleverley is rated as ‘50/50’ as he continues his recovery from an ankle injury.

Seamus Coleman remains sidelined with a calf injury while James McCarthy is out with a groin strain.

Steven Naismith, who has been interesting Swansea and Norwich this January transfer window, also misses out.

Final word

Despite their poor position there is no doubting the quality that still resides in the Chelsea side, even if many of them are out of form.

Hiddink, a hugely experienced and astute coach, has already seen the team’s performances improve on his watch and I doubt they will remain in the bottom half for long.

Everton, though, have every reason to be confident going into this fixture. Their results against Tottenham and Man City prove they can cope with the best teams in the division so they shouldn’t be intimated heading down to the Bridge.

Predicted Everton XI: Howard, Baines, Jagielka, Funes Mori, Stones, Barry, Besic, Barkley, Deulofeu, Kone, Lukaku.