Following a disappointing 1-1 draw with Wigan Athletic on Monday, Chelsea’s title hopes have gone from slim to size zero, so a game less than 72 hours later against Everton at Goodison Park could really kill off any league ambitions we may have. This ludicrously arranged Thursday evening game provides a larger hurdle than usual, and even though the club have paid for our tickets with the TV money they will receive from Sky, they are starting to look a little over-priced! Nothing but a win will do, at least to save a little face and boost the flagging squad as the season comes to a head; a defeat could have unthinkable consequences.Several first-teamers were rested or injured and were therefore not selected in the starting XI for the Wigan draw. Ricardo Carvalho, Joe Cole and Didier Drogba weren’t involved from the beginning, while Frank Lampard mysteriously withdrew himself just an hour before kick-off. All four could be in line for starting berths, while Petr Cech should continue in goal (with his chin strap) after returning for the game on Monday evening and completing 90 minutes unscathed. With the first-leg of the Champions League semi-final looming against Everton’s Merseyside rivals Liverpool, Avram Grant may have an eye on that fixture as he fills in the team-sheet for the Goodison Park game.
While we have got options and squad depth, David Moyes is struggling with his small set of troops, and has recently seen his side’s challenge for fourth place disappear with a series of costly draws and defeats. Everton could be without up to six players for Thursday evening’s game, with Andy Van Der Meyde, Iain Turner, James Vaughan and influential midfielder Tim Cahill definitely unavailable, while Leon Osman and Mikel Arteta are doubtful at the time of writing. The Toffees are letting inconsistency blight their season, with their last five games yielding two defeats, two draws, and just a 1-0 win over Derby to bring their fans any cheer (although Derby fans were probably the happier set of supporters with that narrow scoreline).
The last time we played Everton was at Goodison Park in the League Cup semi-final second leg back in January. It was settled by a single goal, with Joe Cole bagging the decider and confirming Chelsea’s place in the Wembley final. No need to go on about that though…We haven’t actually lost to Everton since November 2000, when goals from Danny Cadamarteri and Kevin Campbell cancelled out Sam Dalla Bona’s opener for us at Goodison. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink was sent-off in that game, while the two subs not used that day were John Terry and Carlo Cudicini, the only players from back then who are still with us now. The line-up also contained a very rare collectors item; a start for Winston Bogarde!
The corresponding league fixture of this season was similar to the draw with Wigan on Monday, as we made more chances during the 90 minutes but were hit with a last-minute sucker-punch. For Everton, it was Cahill who levelled with an acrobatic bicycle kick to grab a point, however, as good as the finish was, it still rankles me how Juliano Belletti didn’t throw himself at the ball before Cahill reached it!
As I’ve mentioned before-as well as everyone connected to Chelsea-this has to be a win, otherwise the dream is over for another year as far as the Premier League title is concerned. All of the free tickets have been snaffled up, so 3000 of us can do our part at Goodison. If the players want to do what they can too, then we shouldn’t have a problem. Here’s hoping anyway.
Prediction: Before the Wigan game I once again ambitiously predicted a confident performance resulting in a triumphant 3-0. That turned out well didn’t it? So this time, I’ll just say it like it is and like it has been for the past few weeks/months: A dull 1-0. Hopefully. Now that’s value for money.