The festive fixtures are coming thick and fast and that continues as Everton take on European Champions Chelsea at Goodison Park on Sunday. Both sides have had very successful festive periods with both winning their last 2 matches. For Everton, they have had hard fought 2-1 victories over West Ham and then at home on Boxing Day against Wigan. For the visitors, they to had a hard fought 1-0 win away at Norwich after absolutely demolishing Aston Villa 8-0 last weekend. The clash pits two sides who are vying for the Champions League spots, so the 3pts on offer are massive for either side. For Everton, they are not only protecting their impressive home record, but a win would see them leapfrog their opponents to 3rd, which would provide a massive boost for the side heading into the 2nd half of the season. For Chelsea, 3pts will see them hold onto 3rd but more importantly keep their faint hopes of catching Manchester United alive.
Everton manager David Moyes had this to say on his sides festive period so far
‘Over the Christmas period you are just trying to win the games and come out of the other end of it in no worse a position, We have six points from the two games and we might have settled for that at the start but we have now got another couple of games – Chelsea at home and then Newcastle away – and then you are probably talking about the Christmas period being over. We will try to take some points from them and keep moving up.’
Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez had this to say on the upcoming match
‘I don’t think they will be supporting me the whole time but the main thing for me is that my players do their job. I think they are doing a good job. They are doing well. They have less resources than other teams and are still competing. They are near the top of the table so credit to them. It is a good team and a tough game for sure. We have to be ready. For us, we have to be ready physically as well as mentally for the game. They have been doing well in the past year and we know that Goodison is a difficult place to go to.’
Everton Team News:
For Everton, the festive period has taken its toll on the rather small squad. Injuries and suspensions have hit the squad hard and a couple key players for Everton will be missing. Marouane Fellaini will serve the last of his 3 match ban following his headbutt against Stoke. Wideman Kevin Mirallas is also expected to miss the match with a hamstring injury. Darron Gibson will be given right up to the last minute to prove his fitness as he struggles with a thigh strain he sustained against Wigan. Tony Hibbert is also out following surgery on his calf. Seamus Coleman is 50-50 as he struggles with a hamstring injury which has sidelined him over the festive period.
Possible Starting XI: Howard, Baines, Heitinga, Distin, Jagielka, Hitzlsperger, Neville, Pienaar, Osman, Anichebe, Jelavic
Player to watch: Leighton Baines
It isn’t often that a left back is the key for a team’s success, but Leighton Baines is just that important to Everton. For me, hands down the best left back in the league has taken his game to the next level in the past 2 seasons. His partnership with Pienaar has been one of the cornerstones for Everton this season and his crossing and set pieces have been top quality so far this season. Pienaar and Baines will need to be at their very best if Everton is to take something out of this match. If they can get on top of the right hand side of Chelsea, then Everton will hopefully keep their impressive home record intact.
Chelsea Team News:
For Chelsea, the festive period has been a lot kinder to the London side. Benitez has a near full squad to pick from, with the exceptions being club captain John Terry still missing with a knee injury. Also Oriol Romeu is set to miss with a knee injury. Youngster Ryan Bertrand will face a late fitness test as he looking to overcome a groin injury.
Player to watch: Juan Mata
It really could be a host of players, but I still think this side thrives of the little Spaniard. His creativity, vision, technique and passing ability is wonderful to watch at times and is the main man for this Chelsea side. Scored the winner against Norwich midweek, so his confidence will be high, which is a dangerous sign for Everton. The Everton holding midfielders, whoever they may be, will need to keep an eye on the Spaniard as he does tend to find that space between the defenders and midfielders. If the Everton midfielders can keep him quiet it could go a long way to securing a good result for Everton.
Match Facts & Stats
1. Everton left back Leighton Baines has created the most chances for his teammates this season out of the 5 major European Leagues. He has created 65 chances so far this season at an average of 3.4 chances per game.
2. Everton have scored in their last 16 matches, on the flip side, they haven’t kept a clean sheet in the last 14 matches. So expect plenty of goals.
3. Juan Mata has played a part (scored or assisted) in 14 goals in his 16 Premier League appearances this season
4. Everton, along with Stoke, are the only sides to have unbeaten home records so far this season. For Everton, their unbeaten record extends back to March of this year where they lost 1-0 to Arsenal
5. Everton have only lost once in the last 8 matches against Chelsea, winning 3 of them. This includes an impressive record at Goodison in which they are unbeaten in 4 against Chelsea, which includes 3 wins.
Really concerned about this game. Normally at Goodison, I would be confident regardless of the opponent, however, the injuries and the suspension to the big Belgian are taking its toll on this squad, and potentially missing Gibson, Fellaini and Mirallas is a massive blow for Everton. That trio is vital to this squad, and against a quality side in Chelsea, will be sorely missed. Doesn’t help that Chelsea are starting to find their feet under Benitez and have looked dangerous this festive period, couple that with our leaky defence, and it doesn’t sound too good for Everton. I really do think the crowd is going to play a part in this match, hopefully the atmosphere will be electric and can will this Everton side to a victory and see them 3rd entering 2013. Unfortunately I can’t see that happening and I fear that our impressive home record is in danger. Unfortunately I think Chelsea will win this 2-0 with Torres and Mata on the scoresheet. COYB!!! PROVE ME WRONG LADS, 3PTS WILL BE MASSIVE, I MEAN 3RD PLACE IS AT STAKE LADS COME ON!!!!!!!!