After tonight, we will be two-thirds of the way through the 2014-15 Premier League season. At a minimum, Chelsea will be four points ahead of second place, but that would require Mourinho's second ever home Premier League loss and a win for Manchester City at the Britannia where Stoke don't usually lose very often. (Actually, they already lost more games at home this season than they did all last season; I still believe in you, Agent Moses!) But even if City win, which they should -- they do have the best away record even after the 1-1 draw at the Bridge -- Chelsea needn't worry too much. Take care of business against Everton, and we'll remain at least 7 points ahead and be another week closer to the title.
Taking care of business against Everton is usually easier said than done of course. They may not have a win to their name at the Bridge since 1994, but generally the games have been tight and nervy like last season when we needed a last-gasp winner to secure all three points. The again, last year was a good year for Roberto Martinez while this year's edition hasn't exactly been the best. An extremely inconsistent season has seen them lose just three of their first 12 league matches but win just two of their next 12, which leaves them standing currently in 12th place, five points above the relegation zone. That's less than the gap from 1st to 2nd!
Scoring goals has been a problem of late. Six times they've been held off the scoresheet in their last ten. Big money signing and once the heir apparent at Stamford Bridge, Romelu Lukaku has not managed to replicate last year's successes just yet, while injuries to key players like Ross Barkley, Leighton Baines, and James McCarthy have not helped one bit. While Barkley was simply unlucky with a knee ligament, the latter both have become vectors for the Marko Marin-mutation of the hamstring-strain virus (i.e. airborne). In fact, Everton have had a staggering 21 players go down with hamstring injuries since Martinez took over. He blames the physios, but perhaps the issue lies elsewhere in the system.
But I digress. And we mustn't digress. Well, the players mustn't. We can digress all we want. But maybe we shouldn't. Visualize the three points!
Date / Time: Wednesday, February, 11, 2015; 19:45 GMT; 2:45pm EST; 1:15am IST (next day)
Venue: Stamford Bridge, SW6
Referee: Jonathan Moss -- less than a month after overseeing out 5-0 shellacking of Swansea City, Mr. Moss is back once again. Interestingly, he also refereed our first meeting with Everton this year, the 6-3 up north, which featured some horrendous calls by linesman Ron Ganfield and lenient refereeing in general. Ganfield has since been relegated to mostly Championship and League Two duty. Moss did also call our 3-1 League Cup win at Derby.
Forecast: Nothing unexpected.
On TV: BT Sport 1 (UK); NBCSN (USA); Star Sports 4 (India); elsewhere
Online: BT Sport (UK); NBC Sports Live Extra (USA); Star Sports (India)
Chelsea team news: John Obi Mikel has traded his head injury for a knee injury and is our only official injury victim. Filipe Luís's calf is apparently all good now, as is Cesc Fàbregas's hamstring. Meanwhile, Branislav Ivanović has been visibly bothered by the chunk missing from his right foot the last couple games, though his left foot has been nothing short of magnificent.
Diego Costa will serve the final game of his three-game suspension. I expect Loïc Rémy to deputise for him once again, just like he did, and did quite ably, against Manchester City. With Fàbregas back, the midfield should return to its familiar look, though some do expect Juan Cuadrado to get his full debut in this one. Another change I would personally advocate is bringing Kurt Zouma back, to help deal with the pure physicality of Romelu Lukaku.
Everton team news: Speaking of the man once known and adored as The Kraken ... Lukaku has just 1 goal in his last 10 Premier League contests, which incidentally equals the number of own goals he's scored in that same span. (He does have two tallies in two FA Cup matches.) As mentioned at the top, the fairly constant stream of injuries certainly hasn't helped in providing consistent support and service for the big boy, but he's also quite often been deployed out wide instead of through the middle, which is just weird. Still, he's just 21, so there's plenty of time (and room) left to improve.
The Everton treatment room, the busiest place in the English Premier League at the moment, is currently home to Steven Pienaar, Leon Osman (both long-term residents), and Aiden McGeady who is on a week-to-week rental agreement. Some say Tony Hibbert also sneaks in at night to sleep in the basement. Meanwhile, Tim Howard and Leighton Baines have checked out, but they may not be allowed to leave. There's a song in that somewhere.
Christian Atsu is not yet back from his exploits at the Africa Cup of Nations, though the Chelsea loanee would've been ineligible to face his parent club anyway, even if Roberto Martinez were wanting to pick him. Which he probably isn't, so he wouldn't.
View from the enemy: Royal Blue Mersey
Previously: Of course these will the highlights of the 6-3 from the end of August. Don't expect that to happen. Ever. Again.