Jose Mourinho has confirmed that John Terry will return to the Chelsea side to take on Everton at Stamford Bridge on Saturday to replace the injured David Luiz. Terry has been missing for the last three matches with a muscle problem, but will come straight back into the starting lineup, with Mourinho insisting that he does not have one eye on Wednesday’s Champions League encounter against Galatasaray.
“John is fit and he will play,” he said, according to Chelsea’s official website. “I'm not thinking about Galatasaray, the team will be the team I think is strong for the game.”
And, with Luiz now suffering his own muscle problem, Terry’s return has come at and ideal time.
“David Luiz is injured, he's feeling some pain in his muscle, he's not ready for this game but hopefully he will be ready for the next one. The next game is in the Champions League where we will have two players less than normal because [Nemanja] Matic and [Mohamed] Salah cannot play. We need him, if possible, to be ready for Galatasaray.”
The absence of Terry has been keenly felt in the past two matches. Against West Brom, Chelsea’s back line was penetrated in the closing minutes to the cost of two points, while the center-backs were also exposed as Manchester City knocked them out of the FA Cup.
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In what is promising to be the tightest Premier League title race in recent memory, Chelsea badly need to get back to winning ways against Everton. Chelsea sit just one point above Arsenal, while Manchester City are three points back but have a game in hand.
In Everton, Chelsea will meet opponents also in real need of getting a win after recent disappointments. Roberto Martinez is enjoying a fine first season at Goodison Park, but two defeats in their past three Premier League matches leaves Everton now facing a real uphill battle to qualify for the Champions League.
Everton will, though, take positive memories into Saturday’s encounter. Martinez’s first Premier League win in charge of the Merseysiders came with a 1-0 win over Chelsea in September. While accepting that Chelsea have improved under Mourinho since then, Mourinho believes his side have also grown.
“This [Chelsea] team is stronger than the team we faced at Goodison in September but I would like to think we are stronger as well,” he told EvertonTV. “It is normal if you are working towards achieving something then the team is going to perform better in February than August and September. "I would say we now have a greater maturity and understanding in what we are trying to do and how we are playing the game. Chelsea have been growing into a strong force that is capable of winning the title and doing something important in the Champions League and that is the level of the task facing us on Saturday."
Everton will again be without Romelu Lukaku, but are likely to hand a first Premier League appearance to loan signing Lacina Traore after the Ivorian scored four minutes into his debut against Swansea. Long-term injury victims Bryan Oviedo, Darron Gibson and Arouna Kone are the only other players unavailable.
Where to watch: The Barclays Premier League match will kick off at 7.45 a.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by NBCSN, with a live stream available on NBC Sports Live Extra.