STICKY SUNDAY AFTER SCHALKE SHOCKER?
Rushed roast dinners and pre-match pints all round then. A 2:00 kick-off is not ideal, but let’s hope it doesn’t come too early for the Blues, who face an in-form Everton side looking to record a sixth consecutive win in all competitions.
One man who will be ready is stand-in ‘keeper Carlo Cudicini, playing his first league game of the season following Petr Cech’s calf injury, which he picked up while helping Chelsea to a clean sheet against Schalke. Cudicini’s last game was the 4-3 thriller against Leicester City in the League Cup, and this time he will be looking to avoid picking the ball out of the net; certainly not another three times anyway! Defenders John Terry, Paulo Ferreira and Ashley Cole are still out while-believe it or not-Michael Ballack (remember him?) has started training with the reserves in a bid to reach full fitness.
Everton are missing high-profile England striker Andy Johnson who is recovering from an ankle injury, but with young Nigerian-born forward Victor Anichebe-who made his debut in an FA Cup 4th round tie against Chelsea in January of last year-winning a penalty and scoring late on against Nuremburg on Thursday night, Everton fans will be looking to him to trouble the Blues’ defence. He will face a battle to displace Yakubu however, who has scored two in Everton’s last two league games. Along with Johnson, Everton will be without James Vaughan and are sweating on the fitness of defenders Leighton Baines and Alan Stubbs.
The Toffees are continuing their assault on the upper echelons of the Premier League this season and under David Moyes’ management they have established themselves as one of the challengers to the ‘big four’. They currently sit eighth, just two points behind fierce local rivals Liverpool, but away from home their form has let them down. Losing to Reading, Aston Villa and Newcastle has prevented them getting more points from their travels, but on recent form they will be confident of making a game of it at the Bridge.
Last season saw Everton visit Chelsea on the final day of the season, where Vaughan’s opener was cancelled out by a Didier Drogba strike. Drogba was not the most popular man in Mersey eyes last season. That sensational strike against Liverpool was matched with a wonderful turn and volley at Goodison Park in the trip to Everton, and the Ivorian will hopefully repeat the feat on Sunday. With Cudicini aiming to keep Everton at bay and Drogba striving to put them to the sword, Avram Grant’s side will try to prolong an impressive run of 10 games without defeat.
Prediction: Should be a tight game as Everton are more than a match for most teams in the Premier League, but then again, so are we. I’m going for a 1-0 with Carlo back to his best between the sticks.