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Everton at Chelsea match preview - Toffees seek Blues double as Ancelotti returns to Stamford Bridge

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The Italian returns to west London for the first time since his ruthless sacking nine years ago

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Everton FC v Chelsea FC - Premier League Photo by Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images

Carlo Ancelotti admitted it will be an “emotional” occasion when he returns to former club Chelsea on Sunday, though I’m sure he also knows the importance of the occasion to his current employer’s European ambitions.

The Italian spent two seasons at Stamford Bridge, winning the double in his first campaign in 2009-10 before being brutally sacked - in the corridors of Goodison Park no less - within hours of the final game of the following season after he failed to secure any silverware.

Ancelotti, publicly at least, bears no ill-feeling towards his dismissal, which is not really a surprise given he comes across as a true gentleman.

His genteel personality means Evertonians quickly became enamoured with Ancelotti, but events over the past week have cemented his position in the hearts of the supporters.

First there was his post-match rant at referee Chris Kavanagh in the aftermath of Everton’s VAR-induced frustration against Manchester United last Sunday. That demonstration of passion went down a storm with the fans, who know now they have a manager who shares their fierce will to win.

Then we had the bizarre sight of the Italian wandering around Bootle Strand shopping centre, happily chatting to supporters, in sharp contrast to some of his predecessors who locked themselves up in their Cheshire boltholes between matches.

Everton FC v Manchester United - Premier League Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

There was then the revealing interview with Jamie Carragher in the Telegraph, where he declared his ambition to get Everton challenging for the Champions League next year.

Again, music to the ears of Evertonians and further evidence Ancelotti is the best thing to happen to the club in a long time.

There was also news of new five-year contracts for Mason Holgate and Dominic Calvert-Lewin. The pair have been standout performers for the Toffees this season and richly deserve their new deals. With Richarlison also committing to fresh terms in December, Everton have a nucleus of young talent to build around.

And with the experienced head of Ancelotti leading from the front, it’s hard not to get excited about the future.

The opposition

Chelsea FC v Liverpool FC - FA Cup Fifth Round Photo by Chloe Knott - Danehouse/Getty Images

With a youthful line-up and a rookie manager, it is little surprise that Chelsea have shown signs of inconsistency this season.

From the outside looking in, it is hard not to feel the appointment of Frank Lampard as manager last summer was much as do with the heart as it was the head.

A legend as a player, the former England international only had one season of management behind him, so it is hard to judge whether he was ready to take on such a job.

The club’s transfer ban perhaps made it easier, as it forced him to blood some of the club’s young players and given him some leeway when results went against him.

Those youngsters, such as Reece James, Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount, have flourished. Though, unsurprisingly, they have had their ups and downs, which explains why the Blues are only just hanging on to fourth place.

After being thrashed 3-0 by Bayern Munich in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie, a top four (or possibly top five) place looks Chelsea’s best way of qualifying for the competition again next term.

But their last nine games in all competitions, yielding three wins, three draw and three defeats, highlights their problem. Home form looks to be of particular concern, with the club having lost four of their last eight Premier League matches at Stamford Bridge.

That said, they have an impressive record against Everton in west London, with the Toffees without a win there since 1994.

Previous meeting

Everton 3-1 Chelsea, 7 December 2019

Everton FC v Chelsea FC - Premier League Photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images

One of the most pivotal matches of the season, and one that may hold greater significance as time goes on. After a bruising week that included a derby thrashing and Marco Silva’s sacking, Duncan Ferguson came to Everton’s rescue and restored some much needed pride and fight into the team. An early Richarlison header and a double from Dominic Calvert-Lewin was enough to earn a much-needed victory as a raucous Goodison Park.

Recent form

Everton

Man Utd (H) Drew 1-1

Arsenal (A) Lost 3-2

Crystal Palace (H) Won 3-1

Watford FC (A) Won 3-2

Newcastle United (H) Drew 2-2

Chelsea

Liverpool (H - FA Cup) Won 2-0

Bournemouth (A) Drew 2-2

Bayern Munich (H - Champions League) Lost 3-0

Tottenham (H) Won 2-1

Man Utd (H) Lost 2-0

Team news

Everton will definitely be without Seamus Coleman after Carlo Ancelotti revealed the Ireland defender will be sidelined for around two weeks with a muscle problem. Lucas Digne is available though after a muscle strain of his own and could come in for Leighton Baines.

What they said

Everton boss Carlo Ancelotti: ”I have fantastic memories of my time there and I am really excited to go back.

”When I arrived at Chelsea the team was ready to fight for the title, while at Everton there is the idea to be at the top but it’s going to take time.

“The Club has the ambition and also they have the possibility [to achieve success].

“Before joining I spoke with [Majority Shareholder] Mr Moshiri, [Chairman] Mr Kenwright and [Director of Football] Marcel Brands.

“The project was clear and I am here to try to reach what they have in mind.”

Chelsea Training Session Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

Chelsea boss Frank Lampard: “Carlo was a great man-manager. On a personal level he was great at striking up a relationship with the players to try to get the best out them. He was very good tactically with a really calm manner at the right time, never too high, never too low, and he was someone I personally enjoyed working with.

“We had a very successful year in that first year to win the Double and from then, I have kept in touch with him now and again, and have huge respect for him.”

Final word

Everton’s terrible record at Stamford Bridge (and any top six side for that matter) means no Toffees fan can be confident of getting a result. But this Chelsea side is as vulnerable as we have seen them for a very long time, so there is no reason why they can’t go down there and get the win.