Everton’s quest to avoid the drop continues with a tough trip to west London to take on Chelsea at Stamford Bridge – a ground where they have failed to win for nearly 30 years.
The Toffees’ bid to stay in the Premier League has been boosted over the last week, not only by that crucial win over Brentford but results elsewhere going their way.
It means nine teams are now involved in the relegation scrap, with just five points separating 12th-placed Crystal Palace, who sacked Patrick Vieira on Friday, and bottom-of-the-table Southampton.
The more teams involved the better for Everton, though it doesn’t help the stress levels when watching other games and hoping for favourable results.
Wednesday’s games definitely went in our favour with Palace and Saints both losing, but the teams around us will likely be seeing this weekend as an opportunity to make up some ground on Everton given the tough task in front of them.
Just to be in this position though is testament to the job Sean Dyche has done in such a short space of time. It felt like Everton were going to finish rock bottom a few weeks ago but Dyche has turned the team into a much competent outfit, especially at home.
It may ultimately not be enough - like many Evertonians I rue the failure to bring Dyche in earlier - but they have given themselves a fighting chance.
Saturday though marks the start of a tricky three-game run including games against Tottenham and Manchester United. If they can emerge from those games relatively unscathed in the terms of the table then hope may just turn to belief.
After a fairly miserable season Chelsea’s season looks to be turning around just as Everton arrive at the Bridge.
A run of six games without a win including three successive defeats ratcheted up the pressure on Graham Potter, who was struggling to get a tune out of a squad bolstered by £540m worth of new talent thanks to the largess of new owner Todd Boehly.
But three straight wins, including progression through to the Champions League quarter-finals, has raised spirits in west London. Though their current position of 10th is way below what their supporters have been used to over the last 20 years.
They will also be boosted by their fantastic record against Everton at Stamford Bridge. November 1994 was the last time Everton took three points there, since then they are winless in 27 meetings.
They did though claim a hard earned point with a depleted starting XI last season, which should give them some confidence as they head south.
Everton 0-1 Chelsea, August 6 2022
The last match between the sides was on the opening game of the season. Ben Godfrey suffered a broken leg early on before a penalty from Jorginho right on half-time secured all three points for Chelsea, who are looking to do the double over Everton for the first time since 2017.
Everton will again be without Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who missed training on Thursday and is being very careful with his return to fitness.
Nathan Patterson and James Garner are progressing well however and have an outside chance being involved.
What they said
Everton manager Sean Dyche: “Chelsea have some very good players, strong players. It’s another tough away game, they all are in the Premier League. Home or away, we have got to be ready.
“We have shown a mentality that we can be ready for that, and when the whistle blows, we have got to be ready to deliver.
“That’s the key focus for me. I say it all the time, all the noise has to go away. I speak to the team about it. It’s about what we do and taking on what is right in front of us.
“We have to take that mentality home and away, wherever we go. Over a season’s work, it pays you back, when you produce that mentality home and away.
“Of course, it’s not easy going to these places [Stamford Bridge]. But that’s the mentality we have to have. We need to put on a performance that can win the game.”
Chelsea boss Graham Potter: “After three wins you have to say life is better. Results give everybody a bit of belief and a bit of happiness, and that’s what we’re here for, we’re here to win.
“Results weren’t good enough and we all have to take responsibility for it. It’s handy to have luck, it’s important, but you can’t wait for that to come around.
“You have to keep going and fight through the storm. There was a storm for a period of time, absolutely, but we’ve come out of it with three wins and now we need to carry on.”
On paper this is a tough ask but Chelsea have endured a difficult season with their vulnerabilities regularly exposed – including by Southampton at home last month. So Everton should not be too intimated. However, when plotting their path to survival anything taken from this game is definitely in the ‘bonus’ category.