We got exactly what we wanted from Group L of the Europa League.
Progression to the knockout phase of the competition was the bare minimum of course, but to achieve that with two rounds of matches to spare is the ultimate reward for Maurizio Sarri taking the tournament seriously.
Now, he can rest players and get some game-time into squad members against PAOK (home) and MOL Vidi (away).
Early qualification was secured with a 1-0 win over BATE Borisov, who once again proved themselves to be game but limited opposition.
On the mark was Olivier Giroud, who rose to head home Emerson’s cross and give himself a real bolt of confidence heading into the second third of the campaign.
“I'm pleased for him,” Sarri said afterwards. “I know strikers want to score. And so for his confidence, I think it's very important.
“I don't want him to be worried about scoring, because for us he's very important, a very, very useful player for the team.”
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The Frenchman took the headlines then, but the bigger story was the return of Eden Hazard to the starting line-up.
The Belgian had missed the last three games, by and large, with a back injury, and so it was a relief to see him get through an hour or so against BATE. That little sharpener should stand him in good stead for a domestic return on Sunday.
Everton are the visitors to the Bridge on Remembrance Sunday, and while the Toffees are certainly a capable outfit they do seem to struggle somewhat on their travels, with only one win in five on the road this term.
As such, we are hoping that the Blues can land yet another win to maintain the pressure on Manchester City at the summit of the division.
Chelsea Team NewsThe good news with the approach that Maurizio Sarri has taken in the Europa League means that we always head into Premier League games in decent shape.
The first choice back four all got a rest on Thursday, and so messrs Azpilicueta, Luiz, Rudiger and Alonso will all come back into the side in front of the impressive Kepa between the sticks.
Cesc Fabregas has been ill this week, and that kept him out of the BATE Borisov game with Jorginho deputising.
Whether the Spaniard is fit for Sunday is touch and go, so we expect Ross Barkley, who was voted Man of the Match against the Belarussians, to continue alongside N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic.
Hazard and Willian were both given lighter duties in midweek, so they will surely start on the flanks, while even the temptation to start Giroud, back among the goals, must be tempered to enable the flourishing Alvaro Morata to come into the side once more.
Chelsea vs Everton Head to HeadThese two sides have been almost perennial top flight outfits in the past century or so, and so we shouldn’t be surprised that this will be the 180th competitive meeting between them.
We have the upper hand with 72 wins to 54 defeats (and 53 draws), and that’s a theme that tends to preside in the modern era, with Chelsea winning 11 of the last 17 encounters with the Toffees (W11 D2 L4).
Everton haven’t won at Stamford Bridge since 2011, and last season they lost twice in the space of eight weeks at our home ground; 0-2 in the Premier League followed by 1-2 in the Carabao Cup.
How the Match Will Be WonThere won’t be any surprises from Chelsea here; why change a winning formula?
We will pass the ball, dominate possession and look to create openings in wide areas courtesy of Hazard, Willian and the overlapping full backs.
Marco Silva hailed Everton’s 3-1 win over Brighton last weekend as their ‘best performance of the season), and yet these soft Toffees could only muster three shots on target during the game.
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They will play with a fairly traditional 4-2-3-1 formation, with Seamus Coleman and Lucas Digne offering width from full back and Michael Keane and Yerry Mina, making his first start for the club with Kurt Zouma barred from playing against his parent club, in the middle.
The midfield will be anchored by Andre Gomes and Idrissa Gana Gueye, with Gylfi Sigurdsson as the old-fashioned number ten in front of them.
Theo Walcott and Bernard will probe down the wings, while Richarlison – assuming he shakes off an ankle injury – will lead the line.
That’s all well and good, but with one win five away from home Silva clearly hasn’t found a working strategy for his side on their travels.
They lost 0-2 at Arsenal and 1-2 at Manchester United, in addition to dropping points at Wolves and Bournemouth.
Everton are a functional yet hardly life-affirming football team in their present guise, and you would have to back Chelsea to find a way past them on Sunday.