In form Chelsea travel to Merseyside on Sunday to meet another in form club Everton with just 2 points and 2 places separating the two sides.
This undoubtedly is the Match of the final weekend of this calender year and both the teams would want to end the year on a winning note. Everton are eyeing for that all important Champions League spot while Chelsea look like the only practical club to put pressure on the Manchester clubs for the title.
Everton have made Goodison Park a fortress this season. They are unbeaten there and have five wins and four draws so far this season. Everton’s fans know that while their team usually scores, it rarely keeps a clean sheet, so goals should be on the agenda again. David Moyes, meanwhile, will be considering how to stop Chelsea from dominating the midfield zone. This is a clash between two keen tacticians and two relatively reactive coaches Moyes has a decision about which formation to use. In the absence of Maroune Fellaini he’s played Victor Anichebe upfront alongside Nikica Jelavic, but might decide to play more of a 4-4-1-1 system here – at least Fellaini offers the ability to switch into midfield, whereas Anichebe and Jelavic is a fairly basic 4-4-2. That would risk conceding the midfield ground, and a more intelligent shape would feature three central midfielders – Leon Osman could move inside into a playmaking position, Darron Gibson can play alongside Thomas Hitzlsperger, with Steven Naismith on the right. Anichebe would be a plan B. If Coleman does not manage to pass the fitness test, then Everton will have to play an unfamiliar player in the right-back position. In the last game, Phil Neville played right-back against Wigan and he has primarily played central midfield for the Toffees, but the former Manchester United man could possibly play there again here.
Projected Lineup :
Rafael Benitez will receive a hostile reception from the home fans when returning to Merseyside for the first time as a Premier League manager since his departure from Liverpool – although at least it will be the opposition fans booing him, rather than his own this time around.
On a serious note, Rafa’s tactical knowledge will come into test on Sunday. With a standard back four and striker sealing their position, it will all come down to his selection of the midfield. With a wide range of players available at his disposal, both in the center midfield and also in the attacking midfield positions, it will be interesting to see how he selects his team.
He has four options in the center midfield. The most likely name to start the game, might surprise some fans, is David Luiz. The curly hair defender has been a pleasure to watch in his transformed center midfield role. His vision, shots and also his physical presence in the midfield has currently made him the favorite to start the game. But with Mikel, Ramires and Lampard also available, the possibility of Luiz going back to defence is open too. Ramires has been really good in the recent games but had to be satisfied coming on as a sub in the last two games. Lampard was not given a start in the Boxing Day game against Norwich and he will be a strong favorite to start too.
The attacking midfield though will not give Rafa that bad a time. With Mata a sure starter, Rafa will have to pick two of Oscar,Hazard and Moses.
Projected Lineup :
Tactical Prediction :
Fellaini’s absence will hurt Everton as he’s been their main target and was a monster in winning air balls. But Pienaar and Osman have been the avenue of success for the team in the last two games when Fellaini was missing. But will they be able to break Chelsea’s strong back four or for that matter their solid midfield. Maybe once but not more. The picture below shows us the top player comparison and it is quite evident that Everton’s main man will dearly be missed in the game.
Chelsea have learnt to be very patient in the mid week’s 1-0 win against Norwich. So they will be wary of Everton’s counter attacking style and they are also very strong in set pieces.
Chelsea to win by a one goal margin.