Chelsea vs Everton Match Preview: Previous Encounter, Key Battle, Team News & More
Premier League champions Chelsea host Everton at Stamford Bridge in one of Sunday's top flight clashes.
The Londoners did the double over the Toffees last season on their way to the league crown, but Ronald Koeman's visitors will be a tougher nut to crack this time around.
Antonio Conte's charges will be hoping to build on last Sunday's victory over London rivals Tottenham, while Everton will look to continue their unbeaten start to the season. Here's all you need to know ahead of the game:
Chelsea took a giant stride towards last season's title with a convincing 3-0 triumph at Goodison Park in April.
Conte's team were made to work hard for the points as the home outfit dug in and made life difficult, but Pedro's stunning 66th minute opener from range eventually broke the Toffees' resistance.
Gary Cahill made sure of the points for the Blues with a 79th minute finish from an inswinging free kick following Idrissa Gueye's foul on Eden Hazard on the left flank.
Willian's tap-in late on put the gloss on a crucial win for the visitors and, whilst Everton weren't without their opportunities, they failed to notch for the second successive match against Chelsea having also suffered a 5-0 mauling in west London last November.
The Battle for the Middle of the Park
Everton's mounting injury problems may mean that their usual first-choice midfield pairing is missing from Sunday's bout.
Morgan Schneiderlin and Idrissa Gana Gueye could both miss out against Chelsea, and their absence would be a huge blow to Everton's chances of securing an unlikely victory.
The home side will be boosted by being able to start with a trio of Cesc Fabregas, N'Golo Kante and Tiemoue Bakayoko, with the former dictating the play and the latter duo breaking up any possible attacks.
Koeman could chance his hand at playing Gylfi Sigurdsson in the middle but, with the Iceland international playing his first 90 minutes for six weeks in Thursday's draw with Hajduk Split, he may not be fit enough to start.
That would leave Muhamed Besic and Tom Davies to hold down the fort if Gueye is not passed fit and, whilst the pair are good players, they would struggle to contain Chelsea.
A win should be on the cards for Conte's men if they manage to win the battle in midfield but, in the unlikely event that Everton do, it could spell trouble for the defending champions.
Conte has an almost fully fit squad to choose from, with Eden Hazard the only major doubt as he continues to recuperate from the broken ankle he sustained on international duty back in June.
The Italian will also be buoyed by the return of Gary Cahill and Cesc Fabregas after the duo sat out last week's victory over Spurs through suspension.
The opposite is true for counterpart Koeman, however, with no fewer than eight absentees from his matchday squad.
Schneiderlin will sit out due to his own one-match ban following his sending off against Manchester City on Monday, while up to seven players will be unavailble through injury.
Gueye (hamstring) and Sandro Ramirez (heel) are doubts, and Ramiro Funes Mori (knee), Yannick Bolasie (knee), Seamus Coleman (broken leg), Ross Barkley (hamstring) and James McCarthy (knee) all remain sidelined.
Predicted Chelsea Starting Lineup: Courtois; Azpilicueta, Luiz, Cahill, Rudiger, Alonso; Fabregas, Kante, Bakayoko; Morata, Pedro.
Predicted Everton Starting Lineup: Pickford; Holgate, Keane, Jagielka, Williams, Baines; Gueye, Besic, Davies; Rooney, Calvert-Lewin.
With five wins from the last eight clashes, the money is on Chelsea to make it six from nine against Everton come Sunday afternoon.
A depleted and tired Toffees squad could come unstuck against the Londoners, but stranger things have happened - just ask Burnley on the opening day.
Conte will be making sure his players don't slip at home once again and, buoyed by an 8-0 aggregate scoreline from last season's two games against the Blues, confidence will be high.
Koeman and Everton's fanbase would certainly take a point from this match if given the chance and, while they'll give as good as they get, it may be Chelsea who will emerge victorious.
Prediction: Chelsea 2-1 Everton