By Tyler Strauss

This weekend will serve as a large test for Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea. They will take on Everton at Goodison Park, which is always a tough test for the Blues. However, this time, there’s seemingly way more at stake.

Both of these sides always give each other a fantastic match, one that brims of competitiveness, and usually requires a spectacular performance to split the two sides.

Last season, Chelsea took both games from the Toffees, yet it wasn’t easy. The first match relied on a Diego Costa hat trick, with the Blues claiming a 6-3 victory in what was a high-scoring affair. In the second match, Chelsea won 1-0 on the back of an 88’ Willian strike that beat Tim Howard in the waning minutes in the match.

This season however, there are many reasons to keep an eye on Goodison Park.

First and foremost, Chelsea announced that Thibaut Courtois will be out for some time, suffering a knee injury in training with the Belgian National Team. This will force Mourinho to go with Asmir Begovic in net for the foreseeable future. His offseason transfer for the Bosnian is beginning to look more and more of a masterclass from Mourinho. Chelsea have the best deputy goalkeeper in the Premier League to ensure the quality in net doesn’t suffer with the absence of Courtois.

Furthermore, Chelsea need points. Probably more than ever. They have taken just four points from four matches, an underwhelming string of results that leave the former Premier League Champions in 13th place so far this season. With an international break giving an abrupt break from Chelsea’s poor performances, it’ll be interesting to see how Mourinho’s men bounce back. Taking all three points from Goodison Park would be a good place to start.

That being said, Chelsea have slightly more controversy with Everton than usual. After a long summer, Chelsea failed in their pursuit of signing John Stones. The Toffees led by Roberto Martinez stuck to their guns and didn’t allow the young Englishman to leave, despite several large offers from the Blues. Chelsea’s approach was noisy and confident and it ultimately left them disappointed and lacking a quality center back from the market. The whole situation seemingly left a bad taste in the mouth of Martinez and Everton. There will be more to prove at Goodison Park this week, with the home fans most likely singing their new favorite tune, “Money Can’t Buy You Stones”.

There is no doubt that Chelsea need all three points from Goodison Park. It’ll be interesting to the see the lineup that Mourinho opts to go with, given that Oscar is still unavailable and several players are still struggling. My predicted starting lineup would be the following:

Asmir in goal, as he’s Chelsea’s best healthy option. Azpilicueta continues his strong run at left back. In the center of the park, John Terry and Kurt Zouma make up the partnership designed to keep Everton out. Zouma will be best suited to lineup against the former Chelsea man, Lukaku. Conversely, Terry needs to continue to work through his slump, and this is a good game to do so. Ivanovic keeps his place at right back, but will need a large overhaul in form in order to continue to keep his place.

Cesc and Matic remain in the pivot, with Mourinho hoping that the two will recover that deadly partnership that was feared by all of England during last year’s campaign.

On the wings, Hazard keeps his place, but will need to improve his form if Chelsea are to be successful in their title defense. Chelsea’s new signing Pedro makes his third start on the right wing, looking to continue his strong start to the season. In the middle of the park, Willian takes up the no.10 role, coming off the back of a strong international call-up for Brazil.

Up top, Diego Costa looks to rediscover his elite goalscoring form, hoping to replicate his early season performance last season against the Toffees.

Overall, this match will be very telling of Mourinho’s campaign with Chelsea. They cannot afford to continue to lose matches. This must start a turnaround for the Blues. There is no more hoping for new signings, and no more excuses. It’s time for them to wake up from their early season slumber, and put in the type of work that led them to last year’s championship. Chelsea will need all three points this weekend, and although it should be a tight game, Mourinho should expect nothing else from his side. With all the other factors to consider, it’ll definitely be a match to keep your eye on.

For more from Tyler Strauss, follow him on Twitter.

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