The strength of Everton’s renaissance under Sam Allardyce will be seriously tested when they host Chelsea at Goodison Park in the English Premier League on Saturday (7.30am ET).
Everton had won just three of their 13 league matches prior to Allardyce’s appointment as a replacement for the sacked Ronald Koeman at the end of November. He was in the stands for the 4-0 win over West Ham and has now directly presided over three wins and a draw.
The latest of those victories came in a 3-1 triumph at home to Swansea on Monday. Everton took a little while to get going but a late first-half equaliser from Dominic Calvert-Lewin got them back on track before second-half goals from Gylfi Sigurdsson and Wayne Rooney (from the penalty spot) secured the three points that moved them up to ninth in the table.
Considering how badly they started the season and just how disjointed they looked in a number of their performances under Koeman and caretaker boss David Unsworth, to be so securely placed and with just a point less than they accumulated in their first 18 matches last season, when they finished seventh, is quite an achievement.
Everton’s ambition prior to the campaign was, of course, to take a further step forward from seventh and challenge for a top-six finish, and they spent plenty of money to that end. It hasn’t worked out like that but at least the earlier threat of a relegation scrap now seems to have passed. They won’t win any prizes for beautiful soccer, but Allardyce has made a series of sensible and practical changes that have stabilised the team and improved results.
Allardyce’s recent managerial forays have all been similar firefighting jobs but with an 18-month contract in hand, Everton will presumably back him to make a couple of signings in January. The addition of a striker and a passing midfielder would almost certainly allow them to look up the Premier League table rather than down for the remainder of the campaign.
Antonio Conte has already said that he would like Chelsea to invest in a couple of new signings this winter. The Italian was reportedly unhappy with their summer business, feeling that it left the squad a little light to deal with the joint demands of European and domestic football. He wants reinforcements to tackle the second half of the campaign in a better manner.
That is not to say that Chelsea have particularly struggled so far this season. The truth is that if Manchester City had not produced such a staggering series of victories to pull decisively clear of the chasing pack at the top of the table, their haul of 38 points from 12 wins, two draws and four defeats would look okay at this stage. Particularly so in combination with qualification for the last 16 of the Champions League and progress to the last four of the Carabao Cup.
There is still room for improvement. Performances have not been as strong as results would perhaps suggest and there have been a few unexpected slip-ups, including a home defeat to Burnley and away losses to Crystal Palace and West Ham. While their defence has generally been very solid, attacking output has been more variable. They would have hoped to defend their Premier League crown more competitively.
The Christmas period does provide Chelsea with the opportunity to put some pressure on Manchester United in second and open up a gap to Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur behind. Saturday’s game is followed by home matches against Brighton and Stoke, and they would then hope to take at least a point away at Arsenal on 3rd January.
This weekend, Conte and his team will be confident of taking all three points against an Everton side they comfortably defeated twice, by an aggregate score of 8-0, last season. The match between them at Stamford Bridge earlier this campaign also ended in a Chelsea victory, as did their meeting in the Carabao Cup. The Blues have lost just one of their last eight league matches against the Toffees.
Our Preview’s Everton vs. Chelsea Predictions & Betting Picks
With that in mind, a Chelsea victory in what will probably be a relatively tightly contested match seems the most likely outcome. Chelsea are around -160 on the moneyline with the sportsbooks that accept American residents. But our betting prediction and the pick that takes this preview’s fancy is:
- Back Chelsea -1 goal on the spread @ +115 with Bovada.