What: English Premier League, Week 20
Where: Goodison Park, Liverpool, England, UK
When: Sunday, December 30, 2012
Weather: The Weather Channel forecast
Time: 1:30 p.m. GMT/8:30 a.m. ET/5:30 a.m. PT
Television: Fox Soccer Channel, FOX Deportes (US), Sky Sports 1/HD (UK)
Worldwide Live Streams and TV Channels: LiveSoccerTV.com
Radio: SiriusXM Satellite Radio channel 94 (Internet 94)
Referee: Howard Webb
3-Way Odds: Chelsea +140, Everton +200, Draw +230
Total: Over 2½ -117, Under 2½ -117
Decimal Odds: Chelsea 2.40, Everton 3.00, Draw 3.30
Decimal Total: Over 2½ 1.85, Under 2½ 1.85
Fractional Odds: Chelsea 7/5, Everton 2/1, Draw 23/10
Fractional Total: Over 2½ 17/20, Under 2½ 17/20
Source: sportsbook.com (Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles)
Chelsea travel to Merseyside on Sunday to face Everton in what looks to be the game of the weekend in the English Premier League.
Undefeated at Goodison Park (5-4-0), Everton and manager David Moyes believe this year's club can land a UEFA Champions League spot. And the way Everton are playing, with Nikica Jelavić (six goals), Steven Pienaar (three goals, four assists) and Leon Osman (three goals), it is definitely a possibility.
In goal, 33-year-old American Tim Howard has been his usual solid self for the Toffees, although he has registered just two clean sheets in his 19 games—the same number Chelsea keeper Petr Čech has in his last two matches.
The home team here will be without leading scorer Marouane Fellaini (eight goals), who will be serving the last of his three-match suspension for headbutting Stoke City's Ryan Shawcross. Darron Gibson will be available after his red card and three-game ban was overturned by the FA, however.
One Everton player the Blues are reportedly looking at in the coming January transfer window, according to The Independent, is left-back Leighton Baines, who could be a possible replacement for Ashley Cole somewhere down the road—although the thought of possibly losing the talented Cole is something almost all Blues fans prefer to push to the back of their minds.
Despite all the negative press from the recent manager change and their elimination from the Champions League, Chelsea (10-5-3) are not having a bad run halfway through the Premier League season.
The Blues have just three losses heading into this fixture (against Manchester United, West Bromwich Albion and West Ham United), have allowed the third least number of goals (17) and have scored the second most (37) in the top flight.
And after three straight league wins—the aforementioned two straight clean sheets (8-0 Aston Villa, 1-0 Norwich City), the first back-to-back shutouts in over a year—and a 12-1 league scoring run, maybe, just maybe, things are starting to look up again at Stamford Bridge.
Whether or not Blues fans will ever totally embrace interim manager Rafael Benítez is one thing. But with Juan Mata and Fernando Torres (seven goals each) clicking on the attack, Frank Lampard (four goals) back from his calf injury and Victor Moses showing much promise, the club's offense is as potent as it has been since Didier Drogba's departure.
Six of the last 10 meetings between these two teams have ended in draws. With Everton having drawn almost every other game this season (nine in 19 matches), this showdown could very well end with a final score of 0-0, 1-1 or 2-2.
Maybe somewhat surprisingly, the Toffees have only lost once in the last 10 matches (3-6-1) and have beaten the Blues three straight times at home. But Chelsea should benefit from the momentum they have created since their loss in the FIFA Club World Cup final and from the absence of the fiery Fellaini.
This a classic matchup between two teams who don't want to and desperately can't afford to lose. With so much at stake for each club, this one could definitely end up in a draw and a point for each side.
In the end, this is an extremely tough match to handicap, as anything could happen here. But it is certainly one game that should not be missed because it is sure to have an impact on who ends up finishing in the Top Four and earns that big Champions League payday next time around.
BET: Draw +230
PREDICTION: Everton 1, Chelsea 1
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