Everton take on Chelsea

Updated: 25 February 2007 10:35 IST

Chelsea faces Everton on the Goodison Park pitch on Sunday, but they will no doubt have Manchester United on their mind.

Everton take on Chelsea

London:

Chelsea faces Everton on the Goodison Park pitch on Sunday, but they will no doubt have Manchester United on their mind. The Blues will be looking to cut the gap to the top of the Premiership table to just two points behind the league-leading Red Devils, if only temporarily, as Man U faces struggling West Ham later in the day. Regardless of the outcome for Sir Alex Ferguson's club, a victory for Jose Mourinho's side will be vital to their championship aspirations. Everton will no doubt have something to say about that, but the Toffees have slipped to mid-table and have found goals hard to come by recently. Big-money strikers Andy Johnson and James Beattie have lost their scoring touch of late and boss David Moyes may be tempted to bring in Scotland international Jame McFadden to liven up his front line. England international Johnson has netted six league goals, but has not scored in 11 matches for club and country. If there is good news for Moyes, it's that the injured trio of Phil Neville, Leon Osman and Mikel Arteta have responded well to treatment and are all in contention for a place in Sunday's lineup. However, long-term injuries will again confine Tim Cahill, Tony Hibbert, Alessandro Pistone and Gary Naysmith to the sidelines. The absence of goal-scoring midfielder Cahill is a major blow for the Merseysiders. The Australian international is a big-match player and his influence in the middle of the park will be sorely missed. Mourinho has insisted that United can be overtaken as he attempts to guide the Londoners to their third straight title, but the Blues have not been at their fluent best this season and summer signings Andre Shevchenko and Michael Ballack have taken some time to settle into the team. Mourinho said recently that Shevchenko - who has scored just three league goals since his move to Stamford Bridge - was not one of his a€œuntouchablesa€ and he would be prepared to drop the 30 million pound forward if he felt it was for the good of the team. And he did just that in a 1-0 victory against Newcastle last Wednesday when the Ukraine international started the match on the bench. Drogba in great form Mourinho has had to rely heavily on Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba, who, fortunately for Chelsea, has been in the form of his life, scoring 15 goals in all matches this season. Drogba started the match against the Magpies on the bench because he was suffering from a hamstring strain, but the striker came on after 74 minutes and grabbed a late winner. He is expected to start Sunday. Chelsea's defence, meanwhile, remains pretty mean with the two-time defending champions having kept 10 clean sheets and conceded just nine goals in 17 matches - although they have let in a total of five goals in their five away league matches this season, which may give Everton some encouragement. Ricardo Carvalho, who has formed a formidable partnership at the heart of the Blues defence with England captain John Terry, has an injured ankle and could miss Sunday's match. Goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini is also doubtful with strained thigh. Mourinho has a big, star-studded squad but a couple of long-term injuries have hit his plans in recent months. Czech international Petr Cech - who fractured his skull against Reading in mid-October - is one of the league's best goalkeepers, while England midfield star Joe Cole has been dogged by a series of injuries all season. Cole's presence on the flanks gives Chelsea width, and they have been criticised for being predictable and playing too much down the middle without him. Everton have not beaten Chelsea in their last 12 Premier League meetings. The Toffees last took all three points from the Londoners in a 2-1 home victory November 25, 2000. Last season's corresponding match at Goodison Park resulted in a 1-1 draw. (AP)

Topics : Football Everton
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