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It has not been the smoothest summer for the Blues, but they still have enough quality to come out on top here – albeit a clean sheet could be beyond them.
Back Chelsea to win and both teams to score on the opening weekend of the Premier League season.
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It is fair to say Thomas Tuchel has experienced a few moments of frustration this summer. It has been an eventful one for Chelsea, whose very existence was under threat as the proposed takeover by a Todd Boehly-consortium dragged on.
A deal to buy out Roman Abramovich was ultimately agreed upon before the deadline imposed by the British government at the end of May, but Chelsea were by then playing catch-up on their rivals in the transfer market. Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen both left when their contracts expired, at least in part due to the uncertainty.
Chelsea have brought in Raheem Sterling and Kalidou Koulibaly, two excellent signings at opposite ends of the pitch. Sterling is a top-class talent who has won the Premier League title four times, and regularly scores goals and provides assists at this level. Koulibaly, now 31, has finally been prised away from Napoli by one of the elite clubs with Champions League aspirations. Their presence in the squad makes Chelsea much stronger than they would be otherwise.
Yet the Blues have not had everything their own way in the summer window – far from it. Jules Kounde and Raphinha are just two of the players who have slipped out of their grasp, with both men opting to join Barcelona instead. Tuchel wants to sign two more central defenders, and he probably would not mind another wing-back, a central midfielder and a wide forward either.
Tuchel did not attempt to hide his annoyance following Chelsea’s 4-0 loss to Arsenal towards the end of last month. But it is not all doom and gloom. The Blues’ team is stronger than it was last year. It is true that their rivals for the top four have also improved their squads, but Chelsea are rightfully among the favorites to secure Champions League qualification.
It is only a couple of years since Everton had continental ambitions of their own, but securing a post in the Europa League or even the Europa Conference League this season will surely be beyond them. The primary objective for Frank Lampard’s side is to avoid a relegation dogfight, the type of which they were dragged into last term after a promising start under Rafael Benitez.
Lampard deserves credit for ultimately keeping the Toffees’ heads above water. Relegation would have been a disaster for a club with financial issues that is set to move into a new 53,000-seater stadium in 2024.
It will be a long road back to the top seven for Everton, who would happily settle for mid-table mediocrity this time around. It is remarkable how far they have fallen in such a short space of time – Carlo Ancelotti, now at Real Madrid, was their manager a little over a year ago – but that is the present reality for Merseysiders.
Richarlison’s move to Tottenham Hotspur robs Everton of one of their star players, but James Tarkowski should help to stiffen up a backline that was far from impregnable last term. Dwight McNeil adds strength in depth in attack, but this is a squad with holes in it and Lampard will do well to steer Everton clear of the bottom three all season long. Relegation is unlikely but no longer unimaginable.
The fact that Tuchel still wants to sign another two defenders shows he is not completely content with the options at his disposal. It may also take a little time for Koulibaly to bed in: he is playing in a new, quicker league for the first time since 2014 and will also have to adapt to Chelsea’s back three having spent the vast majority of his Napoli career in a line of four. One or two teething problems would be natural.
That is one reason why both teams to score is an appealing choice. Another is that, for all their struggles last term, Everton fared reasonably well when it came to scoring goals in front of their own fans at Goodison: they ranked 11th in terms of points won at home and joint-10th for goals scored. Richarlison has gone but the return to full fitness of Dominic Calvert-Lewin is a boost.
We fancy Everton to find the back of the net in the late game on Saturday, then, but Chelsea should still have the quality to emerge victorious. Back the away team to win and goals at both ends.
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|Teams||Everton vs Chelsea|
|Location||Goodison Park, Liverpool, England|
|Time||Saturday, 6 August 2022, 12.30 PM EST|
|How to watch||USA Network, fuboTV|
Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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