Chelsea may be in for trouble at resurgent Everton
Allardyce has restored confidence
Sky Sports Premier League & Main Event, 12.30pm Saturday
Antonio Conte’s champions are long odds-on to beat the Toffees for a fourth time in 2017.
They emphatically did the double over Everton last season, winning by an aggregate score of 8-0, and Conte’s men are on a run of one defeat in ten in the Premier League, going well in their pursuit of second place.
Granted, they are eight points worse off than they were at this stage of last season, but when Chelsea play like champions they are hard to oppose.
A month ago punters wouldn’t have been looking at odds as generous as 4-6 about the visitors.
Everton were in meltdown, David Unsworth had failed dismally to do any better than Ronald Koeman and the clarion call had gone out for Sam Allardyce. But he has worked his magic.
Everton have taken 13 points from their last five league matches, conceded just one goal at Anfield (which pretty much counts as a clean sheet given how many Liverpool bang in on home soil) and Big Sam is getting his top players, who had been looking moderate, playing well again.
Everton players have come out and hailed Allardyce's impact and it’s hard to argue with the bare facts.
They are up to ninth place, six of their seven wins have come at Goodison and only the Manchester clubs and Arsenal have scored more home goals.
In a six-match form table they head Chelsea on goal difference, and at big prices the hosts looks worthy of investment.
Everton have had the benefit of a week off, although the side Conte sent out against Bournemouth in the League Cup on Wednesday was much-changed.
Alvaro Morata is suspended, however, which means Eden Hazard probably operating up front where he’s marginally less effective.
While Everton have been improving, Chelsea have thrown in a couple of desperately ordinary performances against West Ham and Southampton, losing one and nicking a 1-0 win in the other.
Everton’s rearguard is hard to trust but the defensively-minded midfield duo of Morgan Schneiderlin and Idrissa Gueye add solidity.
Further upfield Gylfi Sigurdsson and Wayne Rooney look like they have been reborn, which raises the question of what Allardyce has that those before him lacked.
Everton are certainly confident and Allardyce’s organisational mind-set and attention to defensive detail is precisely what’s required to tackle Chelsea, who are set up to be devastating on the road.
This is a fixture which tends to produce goals – the last three league meetings at Goodison Park have seen 16 goals – although interestingly both sides have an identical 50 per cent record of matches producing over 2.5 goals.
1pt 5-1 general
Seamus Coleman, Leighton Baines, Ramon Funes Mori, James McCarthy and Ross Barkley are all injured. Yannick Bolasie could make the squad.
Alvaro Morata is suspended after picking up a fifth booking of the season. David Luiz (knee) remains absent.
Everton have scored at least two goals in eight of their last 11 home games.
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