Saturday sees our attention turn to the FA Cup and a showdown with the Cup Holders from West London at Goodison. We head into the game in decent form with just 1 defeat in 9 but we are up against a seemingly resurgent Chelsea side who demolished Bolton 4-0 in their last match on Monday night.
Chelsea will most likely line up in their accustomed 4-3-3 system with probably the same personnel that destroyed Bolton on Monday night with Frank Lampard perhaps being the only inclusion at the expense of Ramires if he can shake off injury. Florent Malouda is instrumental for Chelsea and statistically creates more chances than any other EPL player by some distance, averaging 3.6 chances created per game. Chelsea are strongest down the left side with Malouda tucking inside to create space and Cole playing high up the pitch. Their romp on Monday night owed much to their intensive pressing high up the pitch with Malouda’s tackle for the first goal teeing up a blockbuster from Drogba. Essien will provide much of the energy in midfield with Mikel’s great passing accuracy ( 88% pass completion for the season) ticking things over for them in the midfield anchor position.
Baines v Cole Comparison- England’s 2 best left backs will be going head to head this weekend.
Everton were triumphant the last time the 2 sides met at Goodison, although this was the first time we had beaten the West Londoners in many years either home or away. The victory owed much to our hard work off the ball with quality pressing shown by the 32 successful interceptions made by the Blues (chalkboard below) as Chelsea lost despite making 207 more successful passes and averaging a higher pass completion rate of 77% compared to our 66%.
Chalkboards (left) Shows Baines quality delivery into the box which led to our equalizer through Jermaine Beckford at the Bridge this season and (right) shows our pressing intensity making 32 successful interceptions against Chelsea at Goodison last season with most of these central which backs up the belief that Chelsea can play quite narrow at times.
Our previous meeting at Stamford Bridge this season witnessed a really spirited second half fightback from the Blues after recovering from Phil Neville’s inexplicable gift which led to Drogba’s opener. The key tactical change which occurred here was Pienaar switching more central as the game went on which dragged his marker Bosingwa inside and with Chelsea not playing with a right midfielder this allowed Baines to often play as almost a left winger. Such was Baines dominance down the flank the beleaguered Bosingwa was replaced by the slightly more defensively resolute Ferreira. With Pienaar now gone the option’s here are Osman or Billy. As mentioned in the blog post earlier this week I personally would go for Billy left and tuck Osman inside with Arteta.
Everton strategy and lineup
David Moyes gave a strong hint in Saturday’s post match press conference with West Ham that he is going to utilize Marouanne Fellaini in an advanced role, commenting on the impact the Belgian had after being pushed further forward for the last 20 minutes against West Ham. Formation wise, I would expect it to be 4-4-1-1 with Fellaini behind Saha. As mentioned above, Chelsea will line up with 3 central midfielders so Fellaini would give us the flexibility of being able to go like for like when not in possession (3v3) and then move further forward when we have the ball. The other option it gives us is to concede 2 v 3 in central midfield and by pass the midfield with long, hopeful punts to the curly haired marauder as occurred against West Ham.
On the flanks I would expect to see us focus attacks down the left with Chelsea ’s weakness down this flank exploited well earlier this season. I would expect Coleman’s forays forward to be more restrictive and similar to his man marking brief on Ashley Cole he deployed with great maturity back in December (screen shot below shows Coleman tracking Cole right back to our 18 yard line).
It really is hard to see past a draw in this one such is our prolific manner of picking up one point hauls this season. Our form against the top sides this season has been superb with 3 wins, 5 draws and just one defeat in 9 games against the top 7 sides showing we can raise our game for the big occasions. The kick off time and live TV Coverage will significantly dilute the atmosphere which was a key variable in us finally putting to bed our Chelsea hoodoo last season, so a 1-1 is the more likely result here.