Chelsea to put Benítez on the brink of early exit
Title chasers Chelsea will be hoping for an easier ride than the one they had against Leeds United at the weekend when they play hosts to Everton on Thursday evening in the Barclays Premier League at Stamford Bridge. Thomas Tuchel's charges had a brace of expertly taken penalties by Jorginho to thank for extricating them from a shock defeat on home soil, with the winning spot kick coming deep into second half injury time. Meanwhile, the Toffees were back to their insipid worst in their 3-1 loss at Crystal Palace, with former Liverpool boss Rafa Benítez the overwhelming favourite to be next to lose his job. Read our preview here:
By Jorg, he's done it
Whilst football will always be a team sport, individual awards are very difficult to come by for any player whose primary role is neither creating nor scoring goals. This is especially true of goalkeepers, centre backs and defensive midfielders in the modern game, so for Jorginho to come third in the recent Ballon d'Or vote behind only Leo Messi and Robert Lewandowski is testament to his immense talent, and his ability to lead from a deep position for both club and country, as witnessed in the summer with Italy lifting the Euro trophy. Tuchel kept faith with the 29 year old when he missed a penalty in both of the World Cup qualification matches against Switzerland this season, with those failures arguably costing Gil Azzuri an automatic place in Qatar. More immediately, he'll be tasked with keeping the roving Demarai Gray quiet when the latter cuts inside on the left channel, as well as feeding Hakim Ziyech and Romelu Lukaku with accurate defence-splitting passes. Mateo Kovačić and N'Golo Kanté are both set to be absent again, so Ruben Loftus-Cheek could be Jorginho's partner in midfield. Marcos Alonso could be rested on the left despite Ben Chilwell's positive Covid test, with Callum Hudson-Odoi deputising.
Do Ron, Ron
Well travelled Venezuelan hitman Salomón Rondón finally got off the mark for the Blues during that reverse at Selhurst Park, but his medium-term future could still lie away from Merseyside in much the same vein as Benítez', who had such a productive loan spell at Newcastle United under the Spanish manager in the 2018/2019 campaign. The Toffees look soft all over the park from a defensive perspective and not reliably effective enough in attack, with the injuries in particular to Yerry Mina and Dominic Calvert-Lewin biting far harder than anyone at Goodison would've wanted. If Ben Godfrey and Seamus Coleman can get up in support of the wide forwards, they might be able to utilise Rondón's aerial prowess, and in truth, playing on the back foot will invite unnecessary added pressure to a backline already shot of confidence.
Gray days are here to stay
Everton seem the ideal opponents at the time of writing for Chelsea to dispatch with aplomb, although Arsenal thought the same last week and paid the price. The Toffees cannot be taken too lightly, but if the midfield battle is won, it's hard to see a consistent 'out' for the visitors. Casumo have odds of 2.23 for Lukaku and co to plunder the sorry Merseyside outfit to the tune of over 2.5 goals.