Chelsea’s bid to at least become the best of the rest in the Premier League took something of a hit on Saturday as they were the latest team to go up against a resurgent Everton while having to make do with a share of the points in a game that ended in a goalless stalemate.
The scoreline perhaps does not the true story as Sam Allardyce’s Everton did not even manage to register a shot on target but at the same time Antonio Conte’s men came unstuck against the Toffees as they failed to break down their defence without Spanish international Alvaro Morata.
Thankfully though the forward returns from his one match suspension as last season’s Premier League champions play host to a Brighton side who ended their run without a win with a slender 1-0 win over Watford at The AMEX last Saturday.
Chelsea may well have thought it was two points dropped on Merseyside but they will have at least taken solace from the face that Manchester United were also held to a draw later that same evening, so it is as you were in the race for second at present.
That means Chelsea are still three points behind that of their Old Trafford rivals and they will have to hope that Burnley can do them a favour later on when they make the relatively short journey to the Theatre Of Dreams to face Jose Mourinho’s men.
Last Saturday lunchtime can only be described as frustrating for Antonio Conte as his side huffed and puffed but ultimately could not blow Everton’s house down, not only that but they missed out on the chance to further extend the buffer between them and the chasing pack of teams below them.
As it stands Chelsea are four points clear of Liverpool and five clear of the North London duo Tottenham and Arsenal, a gap that they will be relatively happy with as it means as of right now they are not getting dragged into a race for third or fourth.
If they cannot bridge the gap to the two Manchester clubs then they at least will want to not have to look over their shoulders and the best way they can do that is to keep registering wins on the board, the Blues have won eight of their last 11 Premier League outings and will look to add to that with the visit of Brighton this afternoon.
Chris Hughton’s men gave themselves some welcome breathing space between them and the bottom three with a win over Watford on Saturday. Pascal Gross’ goal was enough to give the Seagulls all three points although it perhaps should have been a much more comfortable victory on reflection.
Lewis Dunk was certainly guilty of missing from point blank range and you did get the feeling that the Sussex based outfit could then go on to be punished for the profligacy late on and that was very nearly the case with the last kick of the game.
With a hopeful ball lofted into the box, Brighton goalkeeper Mat Ryan flapped at the ball when he should have caught it and it landed right in the path of Watford’s Stefano Okaka. Unfortunately for him he did not have time to react and re-position his body and the ball scurried wide instead.
Heart in mouth time for Brighton fans but it was a well earned win overall and one that takes them to the relative safety of 12th in the Premier League table which at the half way stage with 21 points in their account is something that Chris Hughton can have few complaints with.
At the same time though he knows that the job is only half done and his players cannot simply admire the work that they have done in their first 19 matches. They may be five points clear of the relegation zone at present but that is a gap that can evaporate all too quickly.
Brighton will have a keen eye on the results of teams below them this afternoon especially with a difficult trip to Stamford Bridge on the horizon, unfortunately for them I don’t think they will get anything out of this but defeat here is not going to define their season either. Chelsea home win for me.