As Manchester City poured on the goals against Leeds United on Tuesday, they poured the pressure on the rest of the Premier League’s top three as well.
Currently sitting five points back of the league leaders, Chelsea (3rd, 36 points) has an opportunity to shore things up defensively as the Blues host a struggling Everton side (14th, 18 points) at Stamford Bridge on Thursday.
The Blues looked to sport one of the league’s best defensive units for much of the first few months, conceding a paltry four goals in their first 12 league matches. Over the last four, however, they have conceded seven times, plus another three against Zenit Saint Petersburg in a meaningless Champions League game last week. Rumors that influential defender Antonio Rudiger has rejected a new contract offer will also be unsettling.
This midweek match is a chance not only to sew things up at the back, but also to further bury former Chelsea boss Rafa Benitez who currently captains what appears to be a sinking ship at Everton.
The Toffees are still seven points above the drop and don’t yet appear to be well and truly in a relegation battle, but they have just one win and five total points collected since the start of October and any further slips could place them among those playing for their Premier League lives.
How to watch Chelsea vs. Everton
The match will be carried by NBCSN (English) and Universo (Spanish), with both channels streaming on fuboTV, which is available to new users on a free 7-day trial.
The match can also be streamed on NBCSports.com for authenticated cable, satellite or telco subscribers.
Chelsea vs. Everton squad news
Chelsea’s midfield has taken some recent hits, as N’Golo Kante and Jorginho have both dealt with injuries, while Mateo Kovacic tested positive for COVID-19. This has pushed the likes of Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Ross Barkley, and Saul into roles off the bench, with Loftus-Cheek seeing four straight 90-minute appearances.
However, it’s possible that the regulars could be on their way back. Kovacic has been out since late October with a hamstring injury and is due back when ruled clear of the virus, while Kante has returned to training and is close to recovering from his twisted knee. Still, it would be surprising to see either in the starting lineup Thursday, with a bench spot far more likely to ease their returns.
In the attack, Romelu Lukaku has come off the bench in the last four games, but a midweek match against his former club is exactly the kind of spot his fresh legs could thrive in. In addition, it’s possible that manager Thomas Tuchel rotates 37-year-old Thiago Silva out of the squad, having started each of the last eight league games and finishing the full 90 minutes in seven of them. It would be Andreas Christensen off the bench to spell the Brazilian, as Malang Sarr has only seen 90 minutes of league action this season.
Chelsea projected lineup (3-4-3, left to right): Mendy — Christensen, Rudiger, Azpilicueta — Alonso, Loftus-Cheek, Jorginho, James — Mount, Lukaku, Havertz
Everton received brutal news after the loss to Crystal Palace on Sunday, with talisman Richarlison out a number of weeks with a torn calf. The Brazilian was hauled off just before the hour mark, and now Everton will need to battle without his attacking influence. That leaves Solomon Rondon as the new Everton striker through the holiday season, with the Venezuelan bagging his first goal of the season in the weekend’s relief appearance.
To make matters worse, Lucas Digne likely remains sidelined, as rumors swirl among the tabloids of an internal struggle with Benitez and an imminent January swoop by their very opponents at Stamford Bridge. He has missed the last two matches, leaving natural center back Ben Godfrey to deputize on the left.
The critical trio of Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Tom Davies and Yerry Mina also remain out with various injuries, leaving Everton brutally thin.
Everton projected lineup (4-1-4-1, left to right): Pickford — Godfrey, Keane, Holgate, Coleman — Delph — Gray, Gomes, Doucoure, Townsend — Rondon
Chelsea vs. Everton betting odds & prediction
Odds courtesy of DraftKings
Chelsea may not come into this match in blistering form, but we saw what happened at the Etihad when a title contender (Manchester City) welcomes an injury-depleted side (Leeds) to its home fortress, and this match has all the making of a similarly lopsided result. Everton’s defense has been tragic, shipping 12 goals over its last five games since the last clean sheet in league play came against Spurs over a month ago. The loss of Yerry Mina has been palpable.
Up front for the Toffees, Rondon may have scored off the bench against Palace over the weekend, but the 32-year-old’s reintroduction to the Premier League has not gone well, with just that lone strike to show for 640 minutes of effort in league play. Now missing Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin, plus a lack of form for Alex Iwobi, and it will be a get-right game for Chelsea’s back line.
Tuchel has a mostly healthy squad, especially up front, and smells blood in the water. Expect a lopsided affair, although Tuchel may shut things down before Pep Guardiola did against Leeds.
Pick: Chelsea -2 Asian Handicap (+130)
Prediction: Chelsea 3, Everton 0
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