Carlo Ancelotti returns to Stamford Bridge on Sunday this weekend as Everton look to gather momentum in their European chase when they visit Frank Lampard’s Chelsea.
The Italian has not faced Chelsea as manager since he was sacked by the London club in May 2011, a year after winning a league and FA Cup double.
Though, he may not be allowed to occupy the opposition dugout following his red card after the full-time whistle in last weekend’s 1-1 home draw with Manchester United.
Chelsea’s excellent start to the season has faded, but they remain fourth despite just four wins in the 12 league games since their 3-1 defeat at Goodison Park on December 7.
Ahead of Sunday’s game, we spoke to Dávid Pásztor, writer for SB Nation’s Chelsea blog, We Ain’t Got No History:
RBM: Firstly, how is Carlo Ancelotti generally remembered by Chelsea fans, and what reception do you expect he will receive on Sunday?
Dávid: Ancelotti is generally remembered very fondly by Chelsea fans, especially as time’s gone on. He gave us one of the greatest seasons in club and league history with the double in 2009-10, turning Chelsea into a free-scoring side never seen before in the Premier League.
His infamous sacking at, ironically, Goodison just hours after the final match of the 2010-11 season is seen as one of the harshest ever by Roman Abramovich, and that’s saying something. I’d expect he would get a very lovely welcome back to the Bridge.
RBM: On the whole, how would you rate the job Frank Lampard has done so far in his first season as Chelsea manager?
Dávid: Given all that he’s had to contend with, from losing Eden Hazard, to a transfer ban, to a cluttered squad full of questionable signings, not to mention engineering a youth revolution not seen in almost half a century at Chelsea, he’s done quite well.
We set minimum expectations at a top four finish, a deep cup run, and reaching the Champions League knockout rounds, and so far, he’s meeting them all.
RBM: After such a strong spell early this season, Chelsea’s form has tailed off in recent months. What do you think the main factor behind this is?
Dávid: Chelsea have issues in every phase of play, but the biggest factor is probably in attack, in not creating enough high quality chances and not taking those that have been created.
RBM: Chelsea’s home form this season has been patchy, with just six wins from 14 home league games this term. Why do you think they’ve fared so much better on the road?
Dávid: Just another statistical oddity helped along by opposition game plans and the aforementioned foibles in front of the opposition goal.
RBM: Chelsea look short on numbers at the moment, with potential absentees including Christensen, Pulisic, Hudson-Odoi, Loftus-Cheek, Kanté, Abraham, Jorginho, Willian and Kovačić. Do you think they have enough strength in depth to cope?
Dávid: To cope this weekend? Possibly. But we can’t keep going like this for much longer.
RBM: Goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga returned to the starting XI in Tuesday’s FA Cup win over Liverpool after being dropped for the previous six games. Should Lampard keep faith with him for Sunday’s game?
Dávid: I’ve been a fairly vocal advocate for Kepa all along, especially after people latched on to his, admittedly not great, save percentage and expected goals conceded statistics. But Willy Caballero has not been better, not by a long shot, and Kepa should have plenty of confidence after Tuesday’s five-save clean sheet against Liverpool.
RBM: How do you expect Chelsea to set up on Sunday?
Dávid: Given our lack of depth in midfield and attack due to the aforementioned injuries, I’d expect another go at the 3-4-3, with Marcos Alonso and Reece James providing attacking impetus (and goals, in the former’s case!) as wing-backs.
RBM: Who do you think could cause Everton the most problems?
Dávid: Alonso has scored our last three goals in the league; I wouldn’t bet against him for keeping that up. Young Billy Gilmour, in central midfield, was the man of the match on Tuesday; he’s expected to play and will have plenty of eyes on him.
RBM: Finally, what’s your prediction for Sunday’s game?
Dávid: 2-1, good guys.
Our thanks to Dávid for his time.