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Chelsea vs. Everton: FA Cup Match Preview

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Remember how happy we were when Salomon Kalou scored the equalising goal at Goodison Park a couple of weeks ago? The Ivorian substitute cancelled out Louis Saha's goal by running onto a Nicolas Anelka pass and firing a shot right through Sylvain Distin's legs and into the far corner of Tim Howard's goal. That was pretty cool, right?

Wrong!

If you watched that game, not only did you Kalou's goal late in the second half, you saw 89 minutes of thoroughly insipid play from Chelsea and probably 70 from Everton. The first half was amongst the more unpleasant periods of football anyone's ever come up with, and the second half saw Everton get better while Chelsea stayed firmly mired in mediocrity. And now we get to do it again, only this time it'll be at Stamford Bridge. Yes, it's FA Cup 4th Round replay time!

We'll very sadly do have to do without Saha gracing our pitch - Everton's French striker and general annoyance has some sort of hamstring problem and has been ruled out. Neither of Chelsea's new signings will be featuring, either. Fernando Torres is Cup tied having played against Manchester United in Liverpool's 3rd round loss, and David Luiz was signed after the initial Everton-Chelsea match and is thus ineligible to play until the next round, should Chelsea make it that far. Jose Bosingwa, who started at right back for Chelsea in the previous match, is out until next week with an unspecified injury as well, but Yuri Zhirkov has returned from his knee injury at long last and will be available for selection.

The 1-1 draw at Goodison was... fairly boring, even tactically. Everton played a 2-1 midfield triangle which featured Jack Rodwell as the point, which was interesting in its aggressiveness but pretty dull in terms of actual play, while Chelsea featured misfiring duo Michael Essien and Frank Lampard, with Ramires as the only really live spark. The Brazilian, unfortunately, was shackled by Marouane Fellaini for much of the match. With the midfield all very flat, most of the play was going down the flanks, with left back Leighton Baines as ever the Toffees' most potent threat, although Seamus Coleman did show some promise in the second half.

I'd expect far more Chelsea pressure at the Bridge than we managed in January, but if Everton again set out to nullify Chelsea's midfield they're not going to look particularly good. One approach might be to go back to the midfield diamond and let Nicolas Anelka play trequartista again, which works brilliantly when he's given space and not at all when he isn't, but with a Champions League match coming up on Tuesday I'd actually expect him to be held in reserve in case the match goes to extra time. With the last few meetings between Chelsea and Everton at the Bridge ending in draws, that's a very real possibility. Besides, Baines and Diniyar Bilyaletdinov against Paulo Ferreira at right back while Chelsea play a diamond is just asking for pain.

In other words, don't expect too many surprises out of Chelsea's shape. Here's my best guess (NB: I am a very bad guesser) as to Carlo's team:

Chelsea (4-3-3): Cech; Cole, Terry, Ivanovic, Ferreira; Mikel, Ramires, Lampard; Zhirkov Malouda, Drogba, Kalou.

And I'm feeling optimistic, so how about a 1-0 win? If so, our prize would be a home match against Championship side Reading which yayyyy.