Everton V Chelsea at Goodison Park : Match Preview

29 April 2017 02:34

Everton boss Ronald Koeman determined to give Chelsea a tough test at Goodison

Ronald Koeman has promised Tottenham his Everton side will give Premier League leaders Chelsea a tough test this weekend.

Chelsea have a four-point lead over Spurs with five games to play and Sunday's trip to Goodison Park could be one of their hardest remaining fixtures.

Spurs have a difficult task themselves, as they host Arsenal on the same afternoon, but victory over their north London rivals coupled with a favour from Everton would dramatically tighten the title race.

Koeman recognises the significance of the weekend - which could also see Chelsea open up a near-impregnable seven-point gap if the opposite scenarios unfold - and is determined to make sure his side play a full part.

"The weekend could be really decisive about the title race, what happens on Sunday," said Koeman.

"It is not done. We know the gap from second to first is four points and both have difficult fixtures.

"The pressure is always for the teams who are behind the first - they have more pressure because if they cannot get a good result, Chelsea are still the first in the league.

"Chelsea are strong, they are confident, but they know it will be a tough game for them to come this Sunday."

That was not the case, however, when the sides met at Stamford Bridge in November. Chelsea ran out convincing 5-0 winners on that occasion, with Everton failing to register a shot on target.

Koeman was stung by that humiliation and it was another month before the Toffees got back to winning ways.

Since then, however, Everton have been one of the most consistent sides in the country, losing just three of their last 19 games. They have won their last eight home fixtures.

Koeman said: "We had only one game this season that we had no chance - and that was the Chelsea away game, from the start to the end. We had no chance to get even one point out of the game.

"That we would like to change and show the team is improving and is much better. The team can give much more competition in every aspect of football this Sunday against Chelsea."

Everton have Enner Valencia available after the striker was ineligible to face parent club West Ham last week.

Meanwhile, Antonio Conte has admitted he cannot guarantee Eden Hazard will be a Chelsea player next season, amid persistent interest from Real Madrid.

Belgium playmaker Hazard has hit 15 Premier League goals this term to drag Chelsea to the brink of the title.

The 26-year-old has flourished under the taskmaster Italian after a dismal campaign last term.

Hazard's resurgence has Spanish giants Real on high alert, but Conte still believes Chelsea do not want to sell and that the Belgian himself is content with life at Stamford Bridge.

Asked if he could guarantee Hazard would be at Chelsea for the next campaign, Conte replied: "I think that it's impossible for me to take this responsibility.

"Not only for Eden, but for every single player.

"In this situation the club has the final decision. I can tell my opinion about this situation, but the club has the final word about this situation. I think this is right.

"I don't think that this idea (to sell Hazard) is in the mind of the club because I think that we have to improve the team; reinforce the team. But you know that in football there is also the will of the player.

"But I think also Eden is very happy to stay in Chelsea. I can tell this but I don't have a crystal ball for the future. I think anything is possible in football. But not only for Eden but for every single player.

"Everything is possible, because you must understand there are different wills to compare, and to take the decision."

Chelsea can rubber-stamp Champions League qualification by picking up any points at Everton, while a win would edge Conte's side ever closer to the league title.

And the former Juventus boss would love to have Hazard in his ranks for an all-out assault on Europe's top club competition next term.

"I think Eden is very happy to stay with us, to work with us," said Conte. "I think his family is very happy to stay here and to play for this team, for this club.

"The fans love him and I think there are a lot of positive things that bring him to stay here and to try to reach the best with this club.

"Don't forget that the target of this club is to try to win in every competition that you have to play.

"He's a great player, he has great talent, but I think this season he has improved a lot, not only on the pitch but also I think that he's becoming stronger mentally. And I think this level is very important to try to have this next step.

"Because this step brings you to the best players in the world. And I think that Eden is starting to take this step."


Source: PAR


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