Behind Enemy Lines: Chelsea
A Chelsea fan and journalist air their views ahead of Saturday's match.
After Manchester City left empty-handed last week, Chelsea are the next to try their luck at Goodison Park.
On Saturday, André Villas-Boas will take on David Moyes for a third time in his debut season in the Premier League. Less than a fortnight separated the two Chelsea wins back in October, but four months later and the side from the capital have stumbled on occasion and have seemingly dropped out of the title chase.
So, how different are Chelsea under Villas-Boas? Is Fernando Torres still the threat he was? And what can we expect of the Londoners on Saturday?
We asked supporter Thomas Johnson and The Fulham Chronicle's, Matt Lewis, as we head 'Behind Enemy Lines'...
THE SEASON SO FAR
With Carlo Ancelotti's departure only a season after landing the Premier League and FA Cup double, his shoes were always going to be big to fill. Step forward, the treble-winning Porto boss Villas-Boas.
His arrival has seen a change in style at Stamford Bridge, but how has it played out so far this campaign?
"This has been a frustrating season for Chelsea fans," said journalist Lewis. "The arrival of Villas-Boas brought renewed optimism to Stamford Bridge but the Blues currently find themselves just one point clear of fifth-placed Newcastle – a position few would’ve expected at the beginning of the campaign.
"Securing fourth place and Champions League football is absolutely vital now."
Supporter Johnson added that despite shortcomings so far, there is still plenty of reasons to be cheerful for the rest of the season.
"Over these past years, being a Chelsea fan has been fairly easy going, with trophies coming at us from left, right and centre," said Johnson. "So this season, for us, has been a massive disappointment. The amount of money we spend on players should put us in the position to be challenging and this year we aren't. Seeing Spurs ahead of us makes it all the worse. However we are still in the challenge for the FA Cup and the Champions League."
Much has been made of Fernando Torres since he joined Chelsea for a British record fee of £50 million. The former Liverpool striker has endured a difficult time in front of goal, but do our experts think he can return to form?
Lewis points out the Spaniard's ongoing drought.
"Fernando hasn’t scored a goal since October," he explained. "That’s not good enough for a player of his quality. He has shown good touches in recent games but is still lacking confidence in front of goal."
Johnson is confident that there is a way to help the forward find the net more frequently.
"I think if Villas-Boas can play Mata behind Torres so he can be fed through the centre and also show him he does believe in him and so does every single Chelsea fan, he will be back to his old self."
MAN TO MARK
One of the brightest lights this season for Saturday's opponents has been their main summer signing, Juan Mata. Both Lewis and Johnson detailed why our boys in Blue should keep one eye on the former Valencia midfielder.
"Juan Mata has been Chelsea’s best player this season by some distance," explained Lewis. "He gives the Blues a new dimension with his creativity, intelligent runs and attacking flair. Mata is also the one player who looks likely to help Torres find his shooting boots."
Johnson added praise for other Chelsea men, but underlined Mata's importance to the side.
"We have a few individuals at the moment who are really doing well on the pitch such as Daniel Sturridge and David Luiz, but if we are going to win this game, the spark will come from the little Spaniard Mata. He has been our silver lining over this past half a year and really proved his worth,
"We saw against Manchester United the positions he moves into, his crosses and his finishing are all top quality he really is the ultimate player and if Everton are going to stop Chelsea, they need to stop this man."
BATTLE OF THE BLUES
With Everton looking for their third successive home win in this fixture and Chelsea having only won two of the last 10 league meetings, how do our experts see the game panning out?
"Everton away is a very hard place to go for all teams," said Johnson. "As we saw with City last week, Everton aren't scared of anybody. I have been to Goodison earlier this year for the Carling Cup tie. The belief they show is great and also the fans are great too. The form we're in at the moment is not good and with strikers like Jelavic joining up, I'm not confident we will win."
Lewis suspects that recent performances from both sides point to a similar outcome.
"Neither side are in particularly good form," he said. "Chelsea head into the game after three consecutive draws, including the collapse against Man United on Sunday. I wouldn’t be surprised if Everton held out for a point."