Everton vs Chelsea – Goodison Park – December 23, 2017 – 12:30 hrs – EPL Preview
Coach Antonio Conte's Chelsea have maintained a consistent performance for a large part of the season, staying in the 3rd spot for the 8th week running. Recent wins of 1-3 and 1-0 against Huddersfield Town and Southampton have helped cement that position but not exactly created consternation among opponents.
The home clash against Southampton was a case in point where the likes of Willian, Pedro and Eden Hazard dominated with some intricate passing and deft footwork. However they found it difficult to convert goals when running into the 5-man wall of the Saints' defence. Even with top-notch strikers like Alvaro Morata and Hazard, the Blues tally of goals is far from laudable (32 so far from 18 games against 39 of Manchester United and miles behind Manchester City's 56). Even 4th placed Liverpool have 38 to their credit. Most of Chelsea's attacking has been through the middle. Thus putting enormous pressure on someone like Cesc Fabregas. Marco Alonso and Davide Zappacosta with their speed on the wings need to play much larger roles if Chelsea are to make headway in coming encounters.
The Blues will have to negotiate with a much tougher Everton defence than the one they bettered at Stamford Bridge 2-0 months ago.
Since the advent of Sam Allardyce as coach in late November, the Everton back line have stifled opposition attacks, letting in just two goals from the five matches they have featured in under the former England and Crystal Palace manager.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Wayne Rooney and Gylfi Sigurdsson with 11, 10 and 5 goals respectively are looking sharper than ever under Allardyce. They are likely to give the Chelsea defence the jitters when they host the London club on the 23rd.
More remarkable about the Everton recovery is that they have won all save one of their five previous games. A draw against Liverpool at Anfield being the only blemish. They have accounted for half of the 24 goals they have scored this season in that 5-match spell itself.
Despite the Toffees' stunning mid-season recovery, bookmakers are given Antonio Conte's visiting men the odds to emerge victors on Saturday at Goodison Park. Perhaps Everton's track record has something to do with it.
The Toffees have lost each of their last four encounters against Chelsea with a couple of score lines reading 5-0 and 0-3. So much so, that Everton has found the back of the net just once from these outings and this too with someone of the caliber of Romelu Lukaku around. But then, teams and morale can change rapidly over the months and years, which is why one can expect a fair contest from the Goodison Park clash.
Everton vs Chelsea Prediction
Everton 1-3 Chelsea
Everton 2-2 Chelsea