Chelsea start the midweek fixtures with a 7-point lead in the Premier League table and face bottom half opponents in Everton after a thrilling game at Goodison Park earlier this season.
José Mourinho will be confident in scoring against the Toffees after netting six against them back in August but will want to improve the defensive display from that day having conceded three goals.
Everton held Liverpool to a goalless draw at home on Saturday but are six points outside the top half heading into the final 14 games of the season.
A midweek fixture usually means that more Chelsea tickets are available through ticket brokers, so you should grab these opportunities to watch your team live if you haven’t in recent weeks.
Diego Costa serves the final game of his three-game suspension whilst John Obi Mikel is the only injury to Mourinho.
Leighton Baines missed the Merseyside derby with a knee injury and is a doubt for this one. Bryan Oviedo could hold his place at left-back if the England international does not recover.
Leon Osman, Steven Pienaar and Aidan McGeady are all ruled out through injury; Christian Atsu is ineligible to face his parent club and is only just getting back from the African Cup of Nations anyway. James McCarthy is a slight doubt with a hamstring strain.
Gary Cahill returned to replace Kurt Zouma at Aston Villa so perhaps he’s back in Mourinho’s good books after spending a couple of games on the subs bench. Cesc Fàbregas returns in the centre of midfield to partner Nemanja Matić despite the manager singing the praises of Ramires earlier this week. Didier Drogba started at Villa Park so Loïc Rémy should be in midweek.
If Leighton Baines is fit to return then he will likely come in at left-back. Everton haven’t been too good in protecting Joel Robles, and previously Tim Howard (when fit) this season but they did keep a clean sheet versus Liverpool on Saturday. Aaron Lennon could make his first start for the Toffees after playing half hour as a substitute at the weekend.
Eden Hazard vs Séamus Coleman
Eden Hazard has been one of the best players in the Premier League this season and most of his best performances have come at Stamford Bridge. Everton’s right-back Séamus Coleman could be in for a long game then. Gareth Barry is overrated when it comes to protecting his defence and this may be a game he will get exposed by Hazard.
Oscar vs Gareth Barry
Expecting José Mourinho to name both Oscar and Cesc Fàbregas in his starting line-up to take the game to Everton, Oscar should play behind the striker. The Brazilian is having a good season, getting himself into the penalty area and goal scoring positions, and creating several chances for teammates. Barry and Muhamed Bešić will have a difficult time in picking up Oscar for 90 minutes, especially when Hazard is moving into the middle and Fàbregas is pushing forward too.
Branislav Ivanović vs Leighton Baines
Predicting Chelsea to spend most of the time in Everton’s half you can be sure to see Branislav Ivanović bombing on from right-back. The Serbian has been involved in six goals this season (3 goals, 3 assists) and has a favourable match-up at Stamford Bridge. Leighton Baines likes to bomb forward and isn’t the greatest defender. Partnering up with Willian, and perhaps later in the game, Juan Cuadrado, Ivanović should be able to get beyond Baines and get him in position to create chances for teammates or even get on the score sheet once more himself.
Prediction: Chelsea 3-1 Everton
Everton defended well versus Liverpool but we’re not confident they will do the same thing twice in four days based on their performances this season. Chelsea has too much talent and creativity for the likes of Phil Jagielka and Leighton Baines to shut out the Premier League leaders. Defensively the Blues haven’t been watertight of late so we wouldn’t be surprised if the visitors get on the score sheet.
Chelsea 3 vs 2 Everton
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