It is the Blues’ and the Toffees’ turn to bring the league fixtures to a close this weekend. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton get ready for Goodison Park…
This is one of only five top-flight fixtures over this weekend, with Manchester United at Wolves in an FA Cup quarter-final and league games involving Arsenal and Tottenham postponed.
After recording the club’s biggest ever away win in the UEFA Cup/Europa League and best on the road in Europe since Schalke in 2014, Chelsea return from the east with the opportunity to draw level on points with the Gunners (who have a five better goal difference) and go two clear of the Red Devils.
Hosts Everton have tasted victory in just one of their past eight Premier League matches, drawing three and losing the other four, while Chelsea have won six of the last 10 top-flight battles with the Mersey Blues.
Our past two meetings may have ended goalless but Chelsea have also scored 285 goals against the Toffees – the highest number we have netted against any opposition.
MOST CHELSEA GOALS AGAINST AN OPPOSITION TEAM
Chelsea are unbeaten in seven Sunday Premier League matches following Thursday Europa League fixtures (four away, three at home), scoring 12 goals and conceding twice.
— Key stat
Maurizio Sarri has been concerned at the scant rest and recovery time afforded English clubs after Europa League Thursdays – it will have been 68 hours between final whistle in Kiev and kick-off in Liverpool.
In Italy, he has pointed out, football authorities usually shunt matches to late Sunday or Monday after a strenuous UEFA midweek. This weekend, for example, Napoli are in action at 5pm on Sunday and Inter 7.30pm. Every hour counts.
However, the Blues have coped pretty well with the unusual rhythm of the season.
LEAGUE MATCHES AFTER EUROPA LEAGUE
West Ham a D 0-0
Southampton a W 3-0
Burnley a W 4-0
Everton h D 0-0
Fulham h W 2-0
Brighton a W 2-1
Wolves h D 1-1
Six English sides have qualified for the quarter-finals of European competitions for the first time since 1970/71 season, a campaign which ended with the Blues beating Real Madrid in the Cup Winners’ Cup final replay.
Friday’s Europa League draw matched the Londoners with Slavia Prague, whose last-minute goal turfed out five-time winners Sevilla.
Their 20,800-capacity stadium in Prague is the auspiciously named Eden Arena. The Red-and-Whites were knocked out of this season’s Champions League qualifiers by…Dynamo Kiev.
Slavia’s leading goalscorer is former Blue Miroslav Stoch. The first leg is in Czech Republic, the second at the Bridge (Arsenal’s fixtures with Napoli were again reversed as FA Cup winners Chelsea take priority when both are scheduled to play in London on the same night).
In common with the other two teams on our side of the semi-finals draw – Benfica and Eintracht Frankfurt – Chelsea and Slavia will meet competitively for the first time.
If Maurizio Sarri is to have a reunion with his former club Napoli, or Blues legend Petr Cech is to face his former team-mates, it can only happen in Baku for the final on Wednesday 29 May.
Meanwhile, Thursday brought a treble for the ‘Ronaldo of the Europa’, Olivier Giroud, and a classic one at that: left foot, right foot, head. It was the first ‘perfect hat-trick’ for Chelsea in Europe since Gianluca Vialli in the 7-1 victory over Tromso en route to winning the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1997/98. We have put together a few similar moments for you to savour.
Giroud became only the seventh player in the club’s history to score three times or more in a continental match; Ruben Loftus-Cheek against BATE was the sixth.
Apart from hitting the target, the centre-forward linked decisively with impressive Chelsea youngsters Loftus-Cheek, who set up his first goal, and Callum Hudson-Odoi, fed by the Frenchman to score the Blues’ fifth.
Eighteen-year-old Hudson-Odoi maintained his remarkable involvement in goals in this competition by cleverly feeding Marcos Alonso – the Spaniard’s first goal since August. The teenager has now had a hand in his side scoring every 68.8 minutes of his involvement in the competition (four goals, two assists).
Sunday’s match, a 4.30pm kick-off, is the first of a run of eight Blues matches confirmed for live TV coverage from now until the end of April.
REMAINING MATCH SCHEDULE
Sun 17 Mar Everton a (PL)
Thirteen days between matches
Sun 31 Mar Cardiff a (PL)
Mon 8 Apr West Ham h (PL)
Thu 11 Apr Slavia Prague a (EL)
Sun 14 Apr Liverpool a (PL)
Thu 18 Apr Slavia Prague h (EL)
Mon 22 Apr Burnley h (PL)
Sun 28 Apr Man Utd a (PL)
Thu 2 May* Possible semi-final, first leg a (EL)
Sat 4 May Watford h (PL)
Thu 9 May* Possible semi-final, second leg h (EL)
Sun 11 May Leicester a (PL)
29 May * Possible final at Olympic stadium, Baku (EL)
TBC Brighton h (PL)
* Subject to Chelsea progressing. In which case Watford at home will move from the Saturday to Sunday.
After the FIFA-designated break for international matches the Blues return to action on 31 March with a trip to Cardiff City, who were beaten 4-1 at the Bridge thanks to an Eden Hazard hat-trick.
A season-defining 10 days start with the Women’s FA Cup last-eight trip to Durham Ladies on Sunday, followed by back-to-back Women’s Champions League matches against Paris Saint-Germain. Buy tickets for the PSG home leg here
Chelsea Under-19s, England’s last representatives in the UEFA Youth League, will play Dinamo Zagreb in the last eight of the competition on Wednesday 3 April at Cobham, a 3pm kick-off.
Goodison Park is a rare old-fashioned English ground with the players in close proximity to supporters, though plans are in train for a new waterside stadium as part of a redevelopment of Liverpool docklands, currently a world heritage site.
For the foreseeable future, though, the Toffees will run out to the traditional ‘Z-Cars’ TV show theme at their home since 1892. For the recent Merseyside derby the famous tune was augmented with an air raid warning siren, similar to Evertonian boxer Tony Bellew’s ring walk music. Be warned – there is some discussion the wailing may become a permanent addition.
THE BEST THAT CAN HAPPEN THIS WEEKEND…
Pushing for fourth.
Premier League fixtures
Bournemouth v Newcastle 3pm
Burnley v Leicester 3pm
West Ham v Huddersfield 3pm
Fulham v Liverpool 2.15pm - Sky Sports
Everton v Chelsea 4.30pm - Sky Sports