It’s another late one for the Blues this weekend as we make the journey to Merseyside for the first of two away games in four days. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton set the scene for Saturday night’s encounter…
If it feels like an 8pm kick-off is the new 3pm, that is because this will be the fourth of four matches with that start time over 11 days, with one more (West Ham) before Christmas.
Unbeaten in Premier League encounters at home to Everton since November 1994, Chelsea have not won in three visits to Goodison Park, the Blues’ most visited away ground, and have lost the past two there.
For the second time in three Premier League fixtures Frank Lampard pits his wits against a former coach with whom he enjoyed incredible success as a player. The current Chelsea head coach played 83 times under Double-winner Carlo Ancelotti, who remains immensely popular at Stamford Bridge despite taking residence on Merseyside.
His Everton team have slipped from leadership of the table to ninth after last weekend, registering one win and four defeats in seven games since the October internationals. The Toffees have conceded in each of their past six home fixtures across all competitions and have been stung by late strikes in the past two.
None of the top-three clubs is at home this weekend: Tottenham play at Crystal Palace and Liverpool are away to Fulham. Lampard’s men are unbeaten on the road for nine games across all competitions (excluding a penalty shoot-out). Not since November 2014 have the Blues managed 10 in a row.
Chelsea will be aiming to start a Premier League season undefeated in the opening six away games for the first time for six years.
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Chelsea team news
Bobby Campbell was the last Englishman to take a Chelsea side to the top of the table in England, and 31 years ago last month he won 1-0 away to Colin Harvey’s Everton to stay there.
Under his latest successor, Lampard, Chelsea are rapidly earning a reputation as the Swiss Army Knife of football teams, with a variety of tools to undo opponents. Having denied a sniff to Son and Kane, the top-flight’s most prolific partnership, taken apart Sevilla and then Leeds with tactical masterclasses, the Londoners must now quieten Dominic Calvert-Lewin, James Rodriguez and co.
After the midweek changes for Krasnodar we are likely to see a line-up similar to last Saturday, though it will be interesting to see who starts in the centre-forward and wide midfield roles. Hakim Ziyech is recovering from minor hamstring problems, as is Callum Hudson-Odoi.
Tino Anjorin and Billy Gilmour achieved career milestones in European football on Tuesday, playing with industry and occasional artistry, never out of their depth. Lampard confirmed both will remain in the first-team plans over the coming weeks, especially as Christian Pulisic is also a slight doubt.
Although the Blues becoming the first team to outrun Marcelo Bielsa’s men captured media attention, there were other important aspects of the performance. Not least was how many times Blues players anticipated Leeds’ passes. N’Golo Kante has now made a combined 62 interceptions and tackles, four more than his nearest Premier League rival.
Kurt Zouma’s fourth goal this term (already double his best return in royal blue) ensured the Londoners matched last season’s tally from corners, just 11 games in. Opta stats show the Blues have cashed in on one in eight corner kicks this campaign, compared to one in 35 in 2019/20 (15th of the 20 Premier League clubs).
The training ground work is paying off defensively too, the mixed zonal and man-marking approach meaning only three opposition set-pieces have so far led to goals.
It helps that Edouard Mendy has the best save rate of any regular goalie in this season’s competition with 93.8 per cent. He has conceded one goal in five top-flight matches and recorded three consecutive away clean sheets. No Chelsea keeper has managed four in a row in the league since February 2016.
Ahead of him, the centre-backs’ comfort in possession has helped the Blues break through attackers’ pressing. Leeds’ man-to-man approach was punctured by Thiago Silva and Zouma playing or bringing the ball past their first line, drawing midfielders out of position and knocking their system out of sync.
Confidence and control could be a crucial foundation on a ground where success has eluded Chelsea for almost four years. The Londoners are the most successful away team in the first half of Premier League matches this season, while Everton are ninth best at home over the opening 45.
As he showed in his successful spell at Stamford Bridge, Carlo Ancelotti is an enabling coach, simplifying tactical processes to extract the very best from individual players.
The main beneficiary of his wisdom at Goodison Park has been Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who was already faster and jumped higher than most defenders. Ancelotti’s instruction was to use those qualities where it counts and take fewer touches. The Toffees striker leads the way in goals and shots on target this season.
The Italian brought in midfielders Allan and Abdoulaye Doucoure for bite and energy, permitting a switch to 4-3-3, but questions about the rapport between centre-backs Mason Holgate and Michael Keane, plus the loss of raiding full-back Seamus Coleman, prompted a move to a back three.
Lucas Digne’s injury, and the use of flankers Alex Iwobi and Fabian Delph as wing-backs, then threatened to undermine Everton’s defensive structure, especially as James Rodriguez is not asked to do a lot of tracking back. The former Real Madrid forward, who has set up 19 shots more than the next most creative player, Richarlison, has been ruled out of this weekend's game with a calf injury.
Everton’s still unfamiliar 3-4-3 found life hard against Burnley’s dense midfield last weekend and Calvert-Lewin was feeding off long balls from his goalkeeper. Then Andre Gomes came on for the injured Delph and the system reverted to 4-3-3.
The extra midfielder wrested more control, and shortly afterwards the Toffees were on level terms. Ancelotti is likely to stick with the revised system for the visit of his former club.
As able as he is, goalkeeper Jordan Pickford was again caught out by a snap-shot from range against the Clarets, and has one clean sheet this campaign, none at Goodison. Only Fulham and West Bromwich have conceded more league goals this season than Ancelotti’s men from open play.
So far in 2020/21 Everton have accounted for the most headed goals, just ahead of Chelsea and Liverpool, and the royal blues of London and Merseyside are neck and neck regarding set-pieces: the Toffees’ have scored from six and conceded from two, while for Chelsea the figures are seven and three.
How to watch Everton-Chelsea
This match will be covered live by BT Sport in the UK. To find the relevant broadcaster where you are elsewhere, see the Premier League’s broadcast schedule pages
The Blues-centred match coverage on the 5th Stand app, Facebook Live, and official YouTube channel begins 70 minutes before kick-off with assessment of the team sheets and exclusive interviews.
An indelible Double
Despite subsequent spells at PSG, Real, Bayern and Napoli, this is only our second reunion with 2009-11 head coach Ancelotti. The phlegmatic Italian started his first season at the Bridge using a 4-diamond-2 formation, until a slew of draws, 11 years ago this month, prompted a switch to 4-3-3.
Unleashed by the change the Londoners embarked on a goal spree, with 5-0, 7-2, 7-1 and 7-0 scorelines before the 8-0 whacking of Wigan clinched the title. The FA Cup soon followed, securing Chelsea’s first and only Double triumph to date.
Across the technical area on Saturday will be Lampard, who contributed the second most goals (22) and mosts assists (16) of that league campaign. It was noted recently that the last player to score four goals in one game before Oli Giroud was Lampard. When that happened, 10 years ago, Ancelotti was in the Blues’ dugout.
How to watch the Round of 16 draw
The Champions League last 16 draw takes place in Nyon, Switzerland, on Monday from 11am. A viewing guide is here
Seeding means the second leg of the round will be at Stamford Bridge and the Blues will be matched with a non-English runner-up from a different group. Among the possibilities, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Lazio, and Porto are very familiar faces.
To continue this year’s theme of Chelsea facing all-new adversaries, though, the draw will have to pair us with Atalanta, Borussia Monchengladbach or Timo Werner’s previous club, RB Leipzig.
Premier League fixtures
Leeds v West Ham 8pm (Sky Sports)
Wolves v Aston Villa 12.30pm (BT Sport)
Newcastle v West Brom 3pm (Sky Sports)
Man Utd v Man City 5.30pm (Sky Sports)
Everton v Chelsea 8pm (BT Sport)
Southampton v Sheffield Utd 12pm (Sky Sports)
Crystal Palace v Tottenham 2.15pm (Sky Sports)
Fulham v Liverpool 4.30pm (Sky Sports)
Arsenal v Burnley 7.15pm (Sky Sports)
Leicester v Brighton 7.15pm (Amazon Prime)
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