CHRISTMAS BINGE BEGINS WITH TOFFEES

By Rowan Farnham-Long
Dec 20th, 2008

The festive guys at Setanta have yet again proved their complete lack of generosity towards supporters ahead of a meeting between Everton and Chelsea. Ahead of a busy Christmas period of fixtures, the television ‘experts’ have decided to emulate their decision last season to shunt the Goodison Park fixture to a Thursday evening, and yet again it’s the fans who lose out. That’s right, with neither side involved in European action last week, and no real reason why the game couldn’t have been played in the traditional 3pm slot on a Saturday afternoon, those cheeky chappies at Setanta have nonetheless decided that Everton V Chelsea is ideal for a Monday night, just three days before Christmas day and only four days before a complete set of Boxing Day fixtures. But hey, big ratings and big money win out right?

With Setanta the villains of the piece, Luis Felipe Scolari and his inconsistent troops may at least get a break from the latest avalanche of criticism levied their way in recent weeks. The poor home record is eclipsed by the perfect 8-and-0 away, and a Christmas getaway from the Bridge, albeit only for a few days, could rejuvenate the squad ahead of the festive period.

In contrast to Chelsea’s staggering away record, and similar to the hoodoo at the Bridge, the Toffees have also struggled at home so far this season. David Moyes’ side have just one Goodison win to their name in the Premier League, a last-gasp 1-0 win over Fulham way back at the beginning of November, and in addition they have only scored nine goals in eight matches in front of their own fans. Moyes must therefore be delighted to find himself with no fit strikers in the squad for Monday’s game. Victor Anichebe, Yakubu, Louis Saha and James Vaughan all miss out with various ailments leaving Tim Cahill, a midfielder, foraging alone up front. Everton will also be without Nuno Valente and Lars Jacobsen, who are both injured.

Scolari’s side however are experiencing an upturn in their fortunes as far as injuries go. With only Michael Essien a long-term doubt, Florent Malouda and Ricardo Carvalho are the only other absentees to contend with. Indeed, both could return for Monday’s trip to Merseyside, however with three games in a week, they may be rested and used for the Boxing Day meeting with West Brom instead. After last week’s dismal draw with West Ham at home, Scolari has began to talk of a ‘plan B’, and it will be interesting to see whether there are any major changes to the side who could only manage a point against the Hammers.

The aforementioned Thursday night clash between the two sides in April saw a tight 1-0 win for Chelsea, with Essien getting the decider just before half-time. Travelling fans were given their tickets for free in a rare show of charity from Chelsea, who noted the inconvenience of the circumstances and opened the chequebook. Speaking of opening the chequebook to alleviate some inconvenience, January’s just around the corner! Hint hint Roman. The Blues also came away from Goodison with a 1-0 win last January, a Joe Cole goal in a League Cup semi-final second-leg proving the difference.

The last time we lost at Everton was all the way back in November 2000, with Sam Dalla Bona’s 45th minute opener cancelled out by a second-half blitz courtesy of striker’s Danny Cadamarteri and Kevin Campbell.

With Christmas coming up, the games come thick and fast and the form book goes out the window. It’s times like these where having a solid squad helps, and Scolari will no doubt shuffle his pack accordingly to win nine points from nine…hopefully! A ninth consecutive away win would break another record for the Blues and help Scolari and the boys end the year on a high. And now, for the final sentence, some ridiculous Christmas puns. Setanta, feel free to steal: It will be a cracker! Three points on Scolari’s Christmas list! Blues stuff Toffee turkeys! Er…I’ll get my coat.

Prediction: A 1-0 of course. Merry Christmas everybody!

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