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Everton Game Will Act as Premier League Marker for Jose Mourinho and Chelsea

Chelsea's Diego Costa, second left, celebrates his goal against Leicester City with teammates during their English Premier League soccer match at Stamford Bridge, London, Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)
Sang Tan/Associated Press
Garry HayesFeatured ColumnistAugust 25, 2014

On the back of two wins in as many Premier League matches, all seems well at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea's season has got off to the perfect start: Diego Costa is scoring, Cesc Fabregas is looking the part in midfield and, after a busy summer at the World Cup, the attacking midfielders are getting back into the groove.

Victories over Burnley and Leicester City would have pleased Jose Mourinho for more than the three points each delivered.

Whereas Chelsea struggled to break down teams at times last season, they have overcome two challenges against resilient opponents to set down a marker that this year is going to be different.

Sang Tan/Associated Press

It is so far so good, although at Goodison Park this weekend, Chelsea face an altogether different challenge.

Indeed, it was at a similar stage last term the Blues came unstuck in a game that proved an early indicator for the frustrations they would endure throughout the campaign.

Three games into the new season, the impression is Chelsea need to show things have changed.

Having been rebuffed by Manchester United following a summer-long pursuit of Wayne Rooney, Mourinho was forced to take what he could from the transfer market last year, settling for Samuel Eto'o as the extra striker he needed in his squad.

Eto'o made his debut in that Goodison encounter, and it was disappointing.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 14:  Seamus Coleman of Everton holds off Samuel Eto'o of Chelsea during the Barclays Premier League match between Everton and Chelsea at Goodison Park on September 14, 2013 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/G
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

From dominating the game for large parts, Chelsea still came out on the losing side—Steven Naismith's 45th-minute header proving the difference.

Had Chelsea been better equipped up front, there's an argument to say that wouldn't have happened. They could well have been out of sight before Naismith scored.

They lacked presence that afternoon, struggling to find an outlet to make the most of their dominance. The endeavour was there, the application wasn't.

Now that they have Costa leading the line, Chelsea's opening games have shown he has the attributes to help avoid those same problems.

Against Burnley and Leicester, when the Blues have needed goals, the Spaniard has been on hand to deliver.

Jon Super/Associated Press

First it was an equaliser against Burnley, pulling Chelsea level three minutes after they had gone behind; on Saturday, Costa's strike just after the hour settled nerves at Stamford Bridge in a game that looked like it was becoming a repeat of many we saw last term.

It all indicates to an improvement, and now Costa must show he can do it against the Premier League's leading teams if Chelsea are to be taken seriously as title contenders, let alone favourites.

That question marks over his ability remain is a strange one. After all, Costa is the player who scored the goals that helped deliver Atletico Madrid the La Liga title last season. Had he not been injured, Costa would have made more of an impact in the Champions League final, also.

However big or small, doubts are there, though, mainly due to Chelsea's struggles with their strikers in the past and since Didier Drogba left the club in 2012.

From a Chelsea perspective, it's driven by a fear that another big name arrives in west London only to lose form, confidence and belief. Outside of the club, it's probably more in hope as Costa in Atletico colours was formidable.

A strong display against Everton will go some way to allaying those concerns. It will bring confidence and show the Premier League Chelsea are the team to beat.

When they traveled to Merseyside last season, it only confirmed what many had expected—that Chelsea were far from being the finished article.

Only now they should be.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - AUGUST 23:  Per Mertesacker of Arsenal competes with Romelu Lukaku of Everton during the Barclays Premier League match between Everton and Arsenal at Goodison Park on August 23, 2014 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffith
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

And lest we forget the Romelu Lukaku factor.

The Belgian is yet to get off the mark since joining the Toffees in a permanent £28 million deal from Chelsea this summer.

He's done the usual bullying of defences—especially Arsenal's at the weekend—and will be desperate to prove a point to Mourinho, the manager who never rated him enough to give him a chance at Stamford Bridge.

Mourinho doesn't need column inches dedicated to his perceived error in offloading Lukaku, especially on the back of Lukaku damaging his team's momentum.

Big tests lie ahead, and the Blues need to rise to them.

Burnley and Leicester were the warm-up. Now Chelsea have a week to look forward to the main event.

Garry Hayes is Bleacher Report's lead Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter @garryhayes

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