Everton head to Stamford Bridge on Sunday with a bit of a problem. Two of their first choice players look set to miss the match, and the circumstances are such that it could handicap Marco Silva’s game plan. There are several big decisions for the Portuguese manager to make. Let’s review.
Tactics and Formation
Historically, trips away to top-six sides have meant predictable tactics. Everton would sit deep, try to absorb pressure, and then hit on the counter attack. The club’s record in these matches speaks pretty clearly to how effective that tactic has been.
We have our doubts. With Richarlison likely out injured and Kurt Zouma definitely absent due to standard loan terms, a high-pressing performance could well be suicidal — especially against Chelsea’s own impressive press under Maurizio Sarri.
Instead, Silva may try to take Chelsea’s press out of the game entirely by sitting deeper than usual and allowing the London side to win the possession battle. With that in mind, we’re expecting the following.
Starters (likelihood of starting rated out of 10)
Jordan Pickford - 10/10
Lucas Digne - 10/10
Michael Keane - 10/10
Yerry Mina - 10/10
Kurt Zouma is ineligible to play against his parent club, so in comes Everton’s big-money defender (finally). It’s a brutal ask of the former Barcelona player — to come into the lineup for the first time away to Chelsea. But, Silva is left with little choice.
Seamus Coleman - 10/10
Idrissa Gueye - 10/10
Andre Gomes - 10/10
Gomes played in Everton’s 2-1 loss at Manchester United earlier this season, so he’s got some experience in the Toffees’ struggles away to top-six opposition. Few, if any, players are more important in these matches — his ability to pick out a ball that breaks opposition pressure may well determine if Everton can stay competitive against Chelsea.
Gylfi Sigurdsson - 10/10
Theo Walcott - 8/10
The English winger didn’t feature in the mid-week friendly against Gor Mahia, while his most likely replacement, Ademola Lookman, started. Lookman continues to impress, and his chance in the starting lineup as a Walcott replacement may be coming soon — but his presence in the mid-week friendly seems to indicate that time hasn’t yet arrived.
Bernard - 8/10
Bernard falls into the same category as Walcott — not necessarily in the best of form, but didn’t play in the mid-week friendly. That’s likely an indicator Silva will stick with the Brazilian, but Lookman’s time could soon come at his expense as well.
Cenk Tosun - 6/10
With Richarlison’s status for Sunday uncertain at best, it looks like Silva will be forced to go back to a true No. 9 this week. We give Cenk the slight edge here, primarily because he’s more comfortable serving as a hold-up outlet to relieve Chelsea pressure.
That said, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Dominic Calvert-Lewin start either, instead using the youngster’s speed to try to play over the top of the Chelsea backline.
Morgan Schneiderlin - Operating under the assumption that Richarlison indeed cannot play, there’s an extra spot open on the Everton bench. Silva could feasibly hand it to Oumar Niasse or Kieran Dowell, but we think he leans toward Schneiderlin.
We do believe that Everton will fix the top six hoodoo at some point this season, but it seems unlikely that this will be the match. Undermanned against a humming Faux Blues side is a tall task, but perhaps Marco Silva has some magic up his sleeve.