Match Preview: Everton v Chelsea
Chelsea may have added another European title to their coffers, but they’re looking to compete for a bigger prize next season.
They need one more win under the departing Rafa Benitez.
With speculation swirling over his successor, Benitez looks to cap a somewhat successful stint in charge of Chelsea on Sunday by securing passage to next year’s Champions League by beatingEverton in David Moyes’ swan-song.
The Blues (21-9-7) became the first club to follow a Champions League title with a Europa League championship after Branislav Ivanovic’s looping header in stoppage time clinched a 2-1 win over Benfica on Wednesday.
“It isn’t the Champions League but to win something in Europe is a brilliant achievement and we’re very proud of that achievement,” defender Ashley Cole told Chelsea’s official website.
“It’s been a tough season,” he said. “It’s been disappointing at times but we’re definitely in the top four, maybe the top three and we have a European trophy.”
Chelsea seem assured of a top four finish, but clinching third means avoiding the Champions League qualifying round.
They’re two points ahead of fourth-place Arsenal, who visit Newcastle. That means the Blues just need to beat Everton (16-15-6) to clinch a spot in the group stage of next season’s Champions League.
There’s a remote chance, however, of a one-match playoff for third place. It would be contested if Chelsea finished with a scoreless draw, while Arsenal beats Newcastle 2-1, leaving all the tiebreakers deadlocked.
That scenario would extend Benitez’s stay at Chelsea for one more game since he’s already announced that he’s leaving. He’s been the center of scrutiny for nearly his entire stay as interim manager after replacing the fired Roberto Di Matteo in November.
Reports are claiming he’ll be replaced by Jose Mourinho after his disappointing stint at Real Madrid.
Before that, Chelsea needs a fourth win in five meetings with the Toffees after winning 2-1 at Goodison Park on Dec. 30.
Frank Lampard, who signed a one-year contract extension this week, scored both goals in that match, and he also had a pair in last weekend’s 2-1 victory at Aston Villa.
Fernando Torres had a goal against Benfica, but hasn’t found the net over his last eight meetings with Everton.
While Chelsea are aiming to return to Champions League, Everton are trying to send off Moyes in style.
The beloved manager was named Sir Alex Ferguson’s replacement at Manchester United last week, ending his 11 years at Goodison Park.
His final home game there ended in a 2-0 win over West Ham last Sunday behind two goals from Kevin Mirallas.
This match is also the finale in an Everton shirt for captain Phil Neville, whose contract is expiring after eight years with the club.