Chelsea left it late to sneak past Bournemouth in the League Cup in midweek. Most importantly, they evaded the extra 30 minutes that Antonio Conte’s players cannot afford amidst this chaotic period.
Everton had a brief scare at home to Swansea on Monday night. The failure to mark Leroy Fer from a set piece was distinctly un-Allardyce. The comeback that led to a 3-1 victory was far more Allardyce. The Toffees now reside in ninth, having gone unbeaten in their last five league matches and look set to embark on a crusade towards the seventh-place that was their predicted finish.
This fixture looks a far more challenging prospect for Chelsea than it would have done a mere month ago. Goodison Park is en route to becoming a fortress again under Sam Allardyce, and the recent good form is in line with the expectation for this squad.
Conte has frequently bemoaned the depth of his Chelsea team. The schedule that he is currently negotiating is stretching it further. Eden Hazard and Alvaro Morata were called in to action on Wednesday night, albeit off the bench. N’golo Kante received a deserved rest, as did Cesar Azpilicueta, but there have been signs of fatigue in some of the Blues’ recent performances.
Everton had no such issue having been knocked out of the Carabao Cup earlier in the competition. The resurgence of Wayne Rooney – who is 8/1 to score the opening goal – has played an enormous role in the Toffee revival, with the former Manchester United man now on 10 Premier League goals, one more than Morata.
Gylfi Sigurdsson has hit form of late, too. The Icelandic international delivered a brutal knockout blow to his former club on Monday, and will play a significant role in trying to create on Saturday. His delivery from set pieces could prove crucial.
As is the case with Allardyce teams, this will be a case of how well Chelsea can break down Everton’s defence. The visitors have shown fallibility defensively this season, though, with errors frequent. Idrissa Gueye will play a key role in transition to, and Dominic Calvert-Lewin must hold the ball up well to give the Toffees a chance of catching Chelsea on the break.
With Morata suspended after a yellow card for celebrating his late winner on Wednesday, Conte is expected to name Hazard as the central striker. Chelsea lean heavily on his supreme close control and creative spark, and will hope that Willian and Pedro’s runs off him are not tracked. Hazard remains the Blues’ main goal threat, however, and his 7/4 price looks a good one.
I fancy this to be a low-scoring affair at Goodison. Everton are almost unrecognisable from the defensive mayhem of the autumn months, and Chelsea’s attack is very reliant on Hazard. I am going to sit on the fence, despite Chelsea winning eight of their last 10 in the Premier League. Everton have won their last four at home, which I think lends itself to a bore draw.
TIP: Match to finish 1-1 @ 6/1
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*