Having scored eight goals without reply against Aston Villa and then gone and won a close encounter at Norwich, 1-0, manager Rafael Benitez has shown that he can get his side winning with explosive attacking play and also based on a strong defensive performance.
While Benitez is still far from loved by Chelsea fans, in getting the balance of the side right he is starting to achieve something that predecessor Roberto Di Matteo never quite managed.
“You could see against Aston Villa we were thinking about the attack, but we have to be strong in defense and a clean sheet is also positive,” Benitez said, according to Chelsea’s official website.
“The players have more confidence if they know they can go forward and the defense is alright. Balance is key in any top side. If you regain the ball you have possession and will be more dangerous. At Norwich against a good team we were controlling the game, and still trying to go forward.”
Chelsea’s rejuvenation is likely to be given a stern test against an Everton team making a real push for a Champions League place this season. Indeed, David Moyes’ side will go above Chelsea with the three points on Sunday, albeit the Blues will have a game in hand.
While the Toffees have likely drawn too many matches of late for Moyes’ liking, their seven matches without defeat speaks volumes for the challenge that awaits Chelsea. Everton are also unbeaten at Goodison Park this season.
Moyes will again be without key midfielder Marouane Fellaini, as the Belgian—who has been strongly linked with a move to Chelsea—completes a three-match suspension. Darron Gibson and Seamus Coleman are both injury concerns, while Kevin Mirallas remains on the sidelines.
Chelsea will be boosted by the return to fitness of Ramires, meaning that Benitez is likely to make a choice between the Brazilian and Frank Lampard in central midfield.
D: Neville, Jagielka, Distin, Baines
M: Osman, Gibson, Hitzlsperger, Pienaar
D: Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Cahill, Cole
M: Ramires, Luiz
Moses, Oscar, Mata
Prediction: Everton are in good form and have a strong recent record against Chelsea at Goodison Park, having won the last three meetings. While Chelsea have reams of creative talent, Benitez could well ensure that the focus is on defense, meaning this could well end in a low-scoring draw.
Everton 1-1 Chelsea
Where to watch: The Barclays Premier League match kicks-off at 8.30 a.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by the Fox Soccer Channel, with a delayed online stream available via Fox Soccer 2Go.