Former (and not exactly beloved) interim Chelsea head coach Rafael Benítez returns to Stamford Bridge for the first time since 2019, when he was manager of Newcastle United, but today’s occasion is certainly bigger for both teams any sort of petty squabbles or personal apprehensions we may have with him still.
For Everton, it’s a chance to try to get back on the right track. A big result here could serve as a turning point after a seventh defeat in nine suffered last weekend.
For Chelsea, it’s practically a must-win if we want to keep pace with rampant Manchester City, who put seven (7!) past Leeds United on Tuesday to open up a four-point lead at the top over Liverpool, who come into today a point ahead of us (and will be playing against Newcastle with kick-off to follow 15 minutes after ours).
It feels a bit premature to have a must-win in mid-December, but as we approach the halfway point of the season and begin the busy festive period, things are about to get real.
Date / Time: Thursday, December 16, 2021, 19.45 GMT; 2:45pm EST; 1:15am IST (next day)
Venue: Stamford Bridge, SW6
Referee: Michael Oliver (on pitch); Darren England (VAR)
Forecast: Overcast, cool
On TV: BT Sport 2 (UK); NBCSN, Universo (USA); Star Sports Select HD2 (India); SuperSport Football (NGA); elsewhere
Streaming: BT Sport Live (UK); NBC Sports Live, Telemundo Deportes En Vivo (USA); Hotstar (India); DStv Now (NGA)
Chelsea team news: Despite the win over Leeds United on Saturday, Chelsea’s concerns in front of our own goal remain. While it’s a welcome change from our usual concerns in front of the opposition goal, eight goals conceded in three games is not exactly being “hard to beat”, which remains our primary directive.
Injuries and fatigue, both physical and mental have played a big role in this blip, but there’s little use in complaining and plenty of use in focusing and not letting our levels drop, regardless of who’s playing.
Both N’Golo Kanté and Trevoh Chalobah are back from injuries and fit enough to make the bench, while Romelu Lukaku could be in line for another start if not the whole 90 minutes. Ben Chilwell (knee) and Mateo Kovačić (COVID) remain out, though the latter could return in time for our subsequent game, Sunday away at
Leicester City Wolves.
Everton team news: After four wins in their first six league games, Everton have won just once in their last ten, losing seven. The one win was against Arsenal ten days ago, and even that needed a somewhat miraculous comeback in the last ten minutes of the game. Benítez does seem to retain the backing of the Everton board for now, but if results don’t improve, it’s hard to see him surviving for much longer. A win at Stamford Bridge would obviously be a tremendous result for them and him personally.
Everton do have their far share of key injuries, with Richarlison, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, and Andros Townsend all out with injuries and Lucas Digne picking up some sort illness. Seamus Coleman and midfield Allan face late fitness tests. Demarai Gray leads the team with five goals and is available however.
View from the enemy: Royal Blue Mersey
Previously: Chelsea have a terrible record at Goodison, recently and in general, but we’ve beaten Everton with great frequency at the Bridge, including in five of the last six matchups in the league. In fact, the Toffees have not won a Premier League game at Stamford Bridge since 1994. Last season, Chelsea won thanks to a Ben Godfrey own goal and yet another penalty conversion by Jorginho. They all count!