Everton vs. Chelsea: Juan Mata and 5 Most Important Players for Blues
It has been nearly a full month since Chelsea's last Premier League win, and Newcastle United are only one point behind the Blues for fourth place. At this point, Chelsea can't keep settling for draws.
Andre Villas-Boas' squad is coming off a devastating draw with Manchester United, and he needs to get his squad refocused quickly.
Everton are a tough side, and according to Leighton Baines, the new transfers are revitalizing the club. Goodison Park is a tough place to play, and Everton hope to secure three points in front of the home crowd.
If Chelsea want three points, they will need these players to play extremely well.
After a sub-par showing against Manchester United, the centre-backs need to step up.
With a 3-0 lead, Andre Villas-Boas refused to play defensively. He kept attacking and left the defensive line relatively high, even with a multiple-goal lead in the second half.
That's fine. However, it's not fine that the defense was unorganized and lost. With some sloppy tackles, poor decisions and horrendous marking, the defense gave up that lead quicker than Chelsea got it.
John Terry has been ruled out for the match, which means Gary Cahill and David Luiz will likely be paired once again.
They are great, young players. However, they need to have more organization. Everton won't have as many chances as United, so the centre-backs need to be sharp in their tackling and sure in their marking.
If they can hold a strong line, a clean sheet is a definite possibility.
Michael Essien played pretty well against Manchester United, but he needs to be better.
Obviously, the Ghanaian will never be the player he once was, but he can still contribute to Chelsea. He's been working back up to speed, but this is a game he needs to take over.
Everton will be looking to counter-attack Chelsea to death. At the holding midfield, Essien will need to snuff those attacks out. His tackling and positioning will be key, and he could very well be the difference in the game.
Essien is spectacular at distributing the ball. If he gets the ball wide quickly, Chelsea will be able to wear down the Toffees.
He might be a step slower, but Essien can still change a game. At Goodison Park, he will need to do his best to take over the game.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Chelsea will only go as far as Juan Mata takes them.
Mata is the MVP so far, and he will most likely finish the season with that title. He's the most creative player on the team, and he facilitates as well as anybody in the EPL.
His eight assists (in the league) lead the club, and he has plenty more passes/runs/plays that led to goals. Essentially, Mata has been a part of nearly every goal this season.
If Chelsea hope to score on the stiff Everton defense, Mata needs to play well. He will be the most skilled player on the pitch; he just needs to play like it.
If Mata plays well, Chelsea will be in good shape.
This season has been hot and cold for Chelsea fans and Daniel Sturridge.
At first, he was a revelation. He was arguably the best player for Chelsea, and he was certainly the most consistent scorer.
Then (and now), people think he shoots too much and doesn't pass enough. While that's true, let's not forget the type of player Sturridge is.
He's a 22-year-old striker trying to play on the wing. Of course there will be some growing pains.
Sturridge is not a star yet, but he is still coming along just fine. Yes, he does need to play more unselfishly, but that will come as he learns the position.
Sturridge will be on the same side as Leighton Baines, which will be extremely tough. Sturridge has scored in three straight matches against Everton, so let's hope that trend continues.
You knew this was coming.
Every match from here until May is a big one. Chelsea need goals in these matches. As such, it would behoove the Blues if their strikers were the ones getting goals.
The Spaniard has gone through a well-documented goal drought, and that needs to end now. Everton have a strong defense, but Torres can find the holes in it. He just needs to finish once he's through.
This is a match that could change Torres' fortune for the year. It is imperative that he turns things around. With the FA Cup fifth round and Champions League round of 16 coming up, this is the perfect time to right his personal ship.