The first of nine Premier League fixtures on what is set to be an incredibly busy day of top flight football takes us to Goodison Park as a resurgent Everton play host to an in form Chelsea. Something will have to give later on but will it be Sam Allardyce or Antonio Conte who is smiling just before 3pm this afternoon.
The former England boss Allardyce has made an immediate impact as manager of Everton with the club taking 13 points from a possible 15 since his appointment, not only that but they now find themselves in the relative comfort of ninth in the table.
It is amazing what a month can do in football and Everton’s resurrection up the table is clear for all to see, it was always considered that this team was to good to go down and with that threat seemingly eliminated the focus will be on just high the Merseyside outfit can finish come the end of the season.
It is well documented that the club had aspirations to break into the top six this time around after making seventh place all but their own and although that is something that will ultimately be out of reach this time around you do get the feeling that they could still end being the best of the rest as far as the big six clubs are concerned.
Ultimately there is no guarantee when spending large amounts of money that success will be delivered and the fact that the club will fail to break through the glass ceiling this season will be of some frustration to Farhad Moshiri the majority shareowner but at least he will feel vindicated in his decision to sack Ronald Koeman earlier in the campaign.
Monday saw Everton inflict defeat on Swansea in what would ultimately prove to be Paul Clement’s last game in charge of the South Wales outfit, although they had to do it the hard way after going behind to Leroy Fer’s first half strike.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s goal on the stroke of half time gave Everton the impetus going into the break and goals from Wayne Rooney and Gylfi Sigurdsson in the second half would make sure that the points would not be going back to the Liberty Stadium.
Everton’s opponents Chelsea are also in a rich vein of form and to a certain degree are going under the radar right now. With the Premier League title race all but already run the aim for Antonio Conte will be to at least finish as runners up and a win today would see them level on points with Manchester United for a few hours at least
With all the focus on Manchester right now, Chelsea have been going about their business with minimal fuss especially as they have won eight of their last ten Premier League outings. A run of form that has allowed them to pull clear of what is looking like a fiercely contested battle for fourth place.
Last weekend saw them apply some pressure on Manchester United as a home win over Southampton saw them level on points with Jose Mourinho’s team, that parity lasted just 24 hours as the Red Devils then got the better of West Brom at The Hawthorns.
But it does show that United can ill afford any slip ups as Chelsea will fancy their chances of splitting the Manchester duopoly and make second in the Premier League their own. If they are to win today though they will have to do so without Spanish international Alvaro Morata.
The former Real Madrid forward was booked for booting the ball away post goal celebration in the Carabao Cup win over Bournemouth in midweek and because of accumulative cautions across the season so far he has to make do with a one game suspension.
Even without Morata though, Chelsea still have an embarrassment of riches in attack with either Eden Hazard or Pedro being able to lead the line instead. Last season Chelsea won here 3-0 as they made a giant leap towards the Premier League title.
I’m not sure it will be the same scoreline this time around but I think Everton’s impressive run of form will finally come to an end as Chelsea return to what has been a happy hunting ground for them as of late, I’ll go for a narrow away win this lunchtime.
Here is what social media thinks will happen – you can still vote on the outcome
— Dan Tracey (@dantracey1983) December 21, 2017