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Everton at Chelsea: Match Preview | Injury-hit Toffees face formidable task at Stamford Bridge

Do we have a any chance?

Chelsea v Everton - Premier League Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

An ever-increasing injury list, an unpopular manager who is falling out with key players, a run of poor form not seen for nearly 25 years and an imposing set of fixtures.

Merry Christmas.

There is a tendency to slip into hyperbole with Everton, but on this occasion, I feel it is justified: the club looks to be in crisis.

Rarely have I seen the fanbase so dispirited and feel so disconnected with the club they love and I grew up in the 1990s when Everton were regularly battling relegation. But there was an FA Cup in the middle of that, while the famous last-day survival act against Wimbledon in 1994 appeared to galvanise the supporters, who suddenly became aware of what was at stake if the club fell out of the topflight and supported them in their droves.

Now, apathy and disillusion reigns supreme.

Crystal Palace v Everton - Premier League Photo by Jacques Feeney/Offside/Offside via Getty Images

Some are taking steps to force change, the 27 campaign is growing ever larger and more organised. But in the short term that will do little to change matters on the pitch, and I fear where that may lead.

Mistakes of the past have finally come home to roost, while a horrendous run of injuries have deprived the team of many of their key players.

They are factors beyond Rafa Benitez’s control, but he also must take some of the blame for the way the team has been set out and performed in recent weeks.

His refusal to do so, however, suggests things will not change. If anything, his power base has got stronger in recent days with Farhad Moshiri offering his full backing.

He is not going anywhere any time soon. So we can only cross our fingers and hope the team can dig their way out of the mess they find themselves in.

The opposition

After a blistering start to the season Chelsea’s momentum looks to be slowing, though they are also showing plenty of character to dig out results.

A league defeat at West ham was followed up by a Champions League draw at Zenit that saw them finish second in their group. Either side of that were battling wins against Watford and Leeds, the latter needing a stoppage-time penalty to claim all three points.

Chelsea v Leeds United - Premier League Photo by Chris Lee - Chelsea FC/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

In those four games they conceded nine goals, as many as they had in the first 21 games of the season.

So is this a good time to head to Chelsea?

Well, I don’t think there is ever a good time to play them given Everton have not won at Stamford Bridge in 26 meetings going back to 1994.

Thomas Tuchel has transformed the side since taking over in January, leading them to Champions League glory and setting them up for what looks to be a sustained title challenge this term.

Like most games these days, we go there in hope more than expectation.

Team news

Everton Training Session Photo by Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images

Everton will be without Richarlison after the forward suffered a calf injury during Sunday’s defeat at Crystal Palace.

Lucas Digne, dropped for the last two matches after a falling out with Benitez, is apparently back in favour but is now ill and misses out once more.

Andros Townsend is also sidelined with a broken foot sustained at Selhurst Park, while Seamus Coleman suffered a swollen foot and will be assessed.

Allan missed the Palace game and will also will be assessed, while Dominic Calvert-Lewin is still not ready to return.

Previous meeting

Chelsea 2-0 Everton, March 8 2021

Chelsea v Everton - Premier League Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Everton’s spring downturn in form gathered pace at Stamford Bridge in March, with Ben Godfrey’s own goal and a Jorginho penalty earning Chelsea all three points.

Final word

I have rarely been less confident about a result than I am about this. Everything about the club at present is utterly dispiriting. I applaud those travelling Evertonians making the trip down to London for the second time in a week. Their loyalty and commitment despite getting little in return should never be taken for granted.

I will be astounded if they get anything other than a defeat in this game.