Everton have Chelsea’s number at Goodison

After an inspiring start to the season, Everton host Chelsea on Sunday with the hopes of leapfrogging their opponents and getting themselves into a Champions League spot.

As usual, optimistic talk of competing amongst Europe’s elite can be heard on both sides of Stanley Park, although this year it is the Toffees who look the more likely to challenge for a top four place.  Everton have lost only twice in the league so far this season, despite too many draws hampering their progress.  The club’s turnaround in fortunes began at the start of 2012, with their resilience no better exemplified by the fact that they have lost only five league games in total during the 364-day period preceding their match against Rafael Benitez’s Chelsea.

The January transfer window saw Everton acquire Nikica Jelavic from Rangers, who continued his prolific goal-scoring form in a royal blue shirt, whilst creative spark Steven Pienaar returned from Tottenham to once again link up with Leighton Baines on the Toffees’ left wing.  A less notable signing was Republic of Ireland midfielder Darron Gibson from Manchester United, who was bought for less than £1 million.  As well as becoming an integral part of the side (Everton are yet to lose a league game with him on the pitch), he is a great example of a player who illustrates David Moyes’ eye for a bargain.

Impressively, Everton have won their last three home league games against the Blues from West London.  The last two occasions have had dire consequences for the men at Roman Abramovich’s disposal, with a trip to Goodison Park shortly preceding Andre Villas Boas’ departure earlier this year and Carlo Ancelotti being relieved of his duties inside the ground on the final day of the 2010/11 season.  Having previously been at the helm of their neighbours for six years, Chelsea’s new boss is guaranteed a hot reception from the Goodison Park faithful. 

If Everton are to be serious contenders for a Champions League place, they will need to continue their winning run against the current holders of the European Cup on Sunday.