On Saturday evening Everton make their way back to London to play Chelsea as the relentless search for critical Premier League points continues.
I doubt anyone would give the Toffees’ a realistic chance of beating Chelsea and ending their away-day blues’, most especially in London.
Everton have a truly terrible recent record in the capital, and only a few weeks ago added to that with a 4-0 thrashing at Arsenal that continuing a very long run without a win at the Gunners going back to 1996.
It has been even longer since the Toffees’ won at Chelsea. The last time they triumphed at the West London club in the Premier League, was in November 1994. That is an appalling record of failure.
So, unsurprisingly given all that bad history, this weekend’s trip to Stamford Bridge is not one Blues’ supporters expect anything from.
It is of course, winning the home games that are seen as critical for the Toffees’ survival, although I do think an away win somewhere might well be needed to avoid relegation.
Last Saturday’s 1-0 win over Brentford was a huge result and gave Everton manager Sean Dyche his third single-goal victory at Goodison Park and three more vital points.
That had followed a frustrating 2-2 draw at Nottingham Forest, which saw Everton fail to hold onto the lead, but at least secure their first point away from the Grand Old Lady since beating Southampton last October.
One thing that might give Evertonians some slender hope of a possible upset is what happened just over two years ago.
In December 2021 the Blues’ managed to grab a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge, very much against the odds with a team of youngsters and thanks to a sublime performance from Jordan Pickford.
Well enough of past history, what about the team Dyche might select for this weekend?
One thing we know for sure is that once again Dominic Calvert-Lewin will be absent from the visitors’ attack.
The centre-forward seems to be as fragile as glass and he missed the most recent training session this week raising fears he could have suffered another setback in his recovery.
Dyche tried to reassure reporters that this was all part of the plan for ensuring Calvert-Lewin regains full fitness before he is back in the team. We will see.
Without him I assume Demarai Gray will continue to lead the line. He has done a good job as an emergency central striker and offers that counter-attacking pace that Everton will surely need and rely upon at Chelsea.
As for other potential selection questions, the manager was non-committal when asked about whether Conor Coady was in consideration for a return to the team on Saturday night as well as his long-term future.
I would assume Dyche will stick to his winning side from last weekend, so I’m not expecting to see the Wolves defender back in the team.
For obviously very different reasons, opponents Chelsea need the points from this match almost as much as Everton.
After three straight losses culminating in a derby defeat by Tottenham, Graham Potter was coming under considerable pressure as the team slipped down the table and out of European contention.
It is telling how much of a contrast there is for these clubs and the wildly different levels of expectation that exists that Potter was in that position after just three games. Everton managers can go whole seasons barely winning more!
Anyway, since then Chelsea have recovered and won their last three. But, Potter is not out of the woods yet, and the pressure to at least qualify for Europe as a minimum makes this a match they will want, and expect, to win .
Although I have been at times overly pessimistic about the Toffees’ chances recently, it really is hard to see anything other than a defeat this weekend.
However, this Blues’ team has a habit of occasionally producing unexpected results against the odds when playing better teams, as mentioned earlier. Could they do something similar again?