This should be intriguing, shouldn’t it? Wednesday night, Chelsea welcome Everton to Stamford Bridge in a midweek fixture that produced some real entertainment back in August in the reverse fixture at Goodison Park. That match had everything a neutral could want – bad decisions by the referee, terrible defending, goals galore. That night also introduced England to Diego Costa and all the attributes that come along with him, from his lethal touch in front of goal to his willingness to be a genuine nuisance. Fast-forward to February, and while the potential is there for this to be a fiery affair, both teams should be looking to play a bit more reserved style in order to get results.
For Chelsea, 3 points at home are vital given some of their struggles away from home. Away from home, Chelsea have earned just 25 points out of 39, with their only two losses of the season both away from Stamford Bridge. However, Jose Mourinho has once more made Stamford Bridge a fortress. Only Manchester City has come to the Bridge in the league this season and left with any points, and the Blues have also conceded just 4 goals at home this season.
None of this particularly bodes well for Everton, who have struggled lately to score goals. FA Cup aside, the last time the Toffees scored 2 goals was back on 28 December in a 3-2 defeat to Newcastle. They have been grinding out results lately, but Roberto Martinez’s men are far from the team everyone expected them to be at the start of the season, sitting in 12th place and 16 points adrift from European qualification.
Some of those results can be blamed on injuries. Tim Howard has been battling various injuries for a large portion of the season and his replacement, Joel Robles, hasn’t looked at all convincing. Kevin Mirallas, Aiden McGeady, and Steven Pienaar have all missed time due to various ailments, limiting Everton’s effectiveness in the wide areas. And James McCarthy also has missed the last month or so with a hamstring problem. To add to that list, Leighton Baines picked up a knee injury ahead of last week’s Merseyside Derby and may not be available to play.
Chelsea themselves have had a share of injury issues, but many are clearing up. For the last two matches, Chelsea have been without their leading goal scorer and their leading assist man and they haven’t quite looked the same. But Cesc Fabregas has been declared fit to face Everton after trudging off with a hamstring problem against Liverpool, however, Diego Costa serves the last match of his three-match ban.
Injuries aside, it’s a match that both teams need a result in for various reasons. Everton have not been good for parts of this season, but they’ve shown a bit of a revival in recent weeks, drawing to both City and Liverpool and keeping clean sheets in their last three matches. Chelsea, on the other hand, got a vital win away at Villa Park on Saturday, breaking Jose Mourinho’s hoodoo at that ground, and have a 7-point lead at the top of the league. A win over Everton ensures that the gap won’t get any smaller, and it ensures that Mourinho’s men only dropped 2 points to Manchester City without two of their key players — something that may very well prove decisive in the title race.