EVERTON travel to Stamford Bridge to face Chelsea on Thursday. Matthew Kirby (@M_Kirby95) takes a closer look at what's expected to be an intriguing encounter.
Chelsea vs Everton | Thursday 16th December 2021, 19:45 | BT Sport
Chelsea were made to battle for three points at the weekend. It was a controversial 3-2 win over Leeds, which came courtesy of two Jorginho penalties. But with a busy Christmas period upcoming, it was an important three points to keep them upsides Man City and Liverpool in the title race.
Meanwhile, the pressure mounts on Rafa Benitez after Conor Gallagher double inflicted Everton’s latest defeat, leaving the Toffees with just one win in their last 10 (W1, D2, L7). Now Gallagher’s parent club can turn the heat up on the Spaniard, and there doesn’t seem to be too much seasonal goodwill going his way from the Goodison Park faithful.
The problem for Benitez is the number of key players out of action, especially forwards. Dominic Calvert-Lewin is still returning to fitness, while Richarlison picked up a calf tear on Sunday.
Everton’s injury problems and the way Benitez set his side up at Selhurst Park on Sunday means Chelsea should see plenty of the ball. The worry for the visitors is finding an outlet and not getting pinned into a defensive position that’s too deep.
And Benitez hasn’t won at Stamford Bridge as an opposition manager in the Premier League (two attempts), while the Toffees are winless in 26 away games at Chelsea (D11, L15).
The betting angles
I’ve got three angles lined up, starting with Chelsea -4 corner handicap at EVS (Sky Bet). This has been backed in from 5/4 when I first saw it, but it makes complete sense.
I’ve outlined a bit about the likely dynamic of this game, which sees Everton sit deep in a bid to frustrate Chelsea. And with the home wing-backs able to get high, they could see plenty of blocked crosses and saves from Jordan Pickford.
Chelsea have had 102 corners this season, an average of 6.4 per game. In contrast, no side has taken fewer corners in the league than Everton.
The Blues have taken five or more corners than their opponents in four of their last five at home, seeing corner matches of 14-2 v Burnley and 15-2 v Man Utd. Tuchel’s side also won it 11-5 at Spurs and 9-1 against West Ham in a couple of their away games.
At the weekend, Crystal Palace won the corner battle by six (8-2) against Everton, with the Toffees yet to get more than five corners in any of their eight away games. In fact, they only average three flag kicks per away game.
Against some of the Premier League big boys, Benitez’s side have lost the corner count 10-1 at Old Trafford, 7-1 at the Etihad and 11-3 in the Merseyside derby at Goodison. So, that shows they’re no match in this department for those bigger sides, which have highlighted this bet.
One of the league’s in-form players comes up for my second bet. That’s Mason Mount who continues to flourish under Tuchel’s management. He’s netted in each of his last three league games and a goal here would see him become the youngest Chelsea player to score in four in a row in the competition.
Mount has bagged six goals in the league from an expected goals of 3.3xG, so he’s been scoring from low-percentage chances – the West Ham volley one to note in that department.
The 22-year-old has registered 22 shots, 13 of those hitting the target. He netted from his only SOT v Watford, had three efforts on target against West Ham and had two more against Leeds.
He’s getting into good positions, which expose the opposition defence, and no matter how deep Everton sit here, I can see Mount being the one who manages to find a breakthrough. If it’s wave after wave of Chelsea attack, as expected, then the visiting defence will struggle physically and mentally to remain switched on to any intricate or clever build-up play.
Meanwhile, the calendar turning to December has finally seen a few defensive errors from Chelsea. The Blues had only conceded five goals in their first 13 Premier League games, but they’ve already conceded six this month. Plus, three more in the Champions League, albeit with a makeshift backline.
The problem here is that I doubt Everton will be too adventurous. So, if Salomon Rondon starts, he’ll have his work cut out to hold the ball up and bring his team-mates into the game. That could see Demarai Gray as the outlet.
I’ll take a chance on the 10/3 with SkyBet on Gray having 1+ shot on target from outside the box. So far this season, he’s registered 35 shots and 10 on target from his 14 apps of 45+ minutes.
He gets into shooting positions and when you break his overall numbers down, he’s had 17 shots have been from outside the area. Since the start of November, his shot tallies have been 3, 5, 1, 1, 3, 3 & 4.
The 25-year-old scored from the edge of the box in the Merseyside derby, so has managed this against one of the big boys already. While he scored from outside the area v Arsenal and, at the weekend, all four of his shots were from 18+ yards, including three which tested Vicente Guaita.
I’m expecting Gray to be the one to lead the counter charge for the visitors and that could lead to him having a few snapshots from distance, making this 10/3 angle worth a nibble. The 25/1 for 2+ could prove hard to ignore after recent outings.
Finally, Michael Oliver is in charge, but nobody stood out from a cards angle. A few left-sided centre-backs have been booked at Stamford Bridge lately, bringing Michael Keane into the frame, away from the obvious Abdoulaye Doucouré and Ben Godfrey. However, Keane is yet to be booked this term.