Thomas Tuchel will meet Frank Lampard for the first time this afternoon at Goodison Park, but there will be little time for pleasantries between the Chelsea head coach and the man he replaced in the Stamford Bridge dugout 16 months ago. The importance of the fixture simply doesn’t allow it.
Lampard is a Chelsea legend, the club’s all-time leading goalscorer, and someone who will almost certainly be honoured with a statue outside of the Blues’ home in the future. But this afternoon, he will be desperate for his Everton side to inflict defeat upon Chelsea and boost their ever-decreasing survival hopes.
Tuchel is certainly not expecting an easy encounter. “We need the points, and they need the points urgently as well,” the German said during his pre-match press conference. “It is an exciting week for me personally. I love to play at Old Trafford [against Manchester United], and everybody tells me about the atmosphere at Goodison Park, how emotional and how tough it is to play there. This is what it’s all about. I am excited to go there, and we expect a tough fight.”
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Ahead of the contest, Tuchel was boosted by the returns of Andreas Christensen, Ross Barkley and most importantly of all, Mateo Kovacic to first-team training. The Chelsea head coach will have to decide whether any of that trio should be risked against Everton, who go into the contest five points from safety. Ben Chilwell (knee) and Callum Hudson-Odoi (achilles) will remain absent.
Chelsea do not have another game for six days after the clash at Goodison. It will likely enable Tuchel to go with his strongest side. That means Edouard Mendy keeps his place in goal for the Blues with Kepa Arrizabalaga still very much confined to the substitutes’ bench. The Spaniard will have to make a decision on his future in the summer.
Trevoh Chalobah may be brought back in on the right of the back three having sat out the 1-1 draw against Manchester United on Thursday. Thiago Silva will likely keep his place in the middle of Tuchel’s defence with Antonio Rudiger, who wasn’t a regular during Lampard’s tenure, on the left of the backline.
Reece James was in excellent form in midweek and is an almost certainty to begin at right wing-back once more while Marcos Alonso, who was frozen out by Lampard after an off-pitch incident against West Bromwich Albion, will want to prove a point if selected at left wing-back.
It’s unlikely that Tuchel will risk Kovacic by throwing the Croatian straight back into his starting XI; a place on the substitutes’ bench may have to suffice for the Croatia international. That would mean the Chelsea midfield remaining as it was at Old Trafford: N’Golo Kante and Jorginho.
Mason Mount was given huge first-team responsibility at Chelsea under Lampard and grasped that with both hands. It’s likely the England international will start once more and that Timo Werner also keeps his spot. After a wasteful performance against Manchester United, Kai Havertz could come out of the starting XI and Tuchel may be tempted to bring Romelu Lukaku in to face his former club.
Predicted Chelsea side: Mendy; Chalobah, Silva, Rudiger; James, Kante, Jorginho, Alonso; Mount, Lukaku, Werner
Source by Football London