Roberto Martinez may have backed Chelsea for the title, but will be keen for his Everton side to dent the league leaders’ hopes today.
Martinez’s side travel to Stamford Bridge to face a Chelsea team enjoying a fine season under Jose Mourinho.
Mourinho’s men sit atop the Premier League table with 12 games remaining, but their manager has been consistently dismissive of their prospects of winning the title.
However, Martinez, whose team head into the game eight points adrift of the UEFA Champions League places, believes Mourinho can have designs on lifting a third Premier League trophy come the end of the campaign.
“From the outside, clearly Chelsea looks a team that are capable of competing for the title,” the Spaniard said. “It’s the final third of the season - I think now is the time that the teams can speak about the aims of this season.”
Everton have not tasted victory at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League since 1994, but Martinez can feel upbeat about ending an 18-year wait for a repeat after his side beat Chelsea 1-0 at home back in September. Steven Naismith scored the winning goal on that occasion, and Everton have been boosted by the news that the Scot is expected to be fit after suffering a delayed concussion in the FA Cup tie with Swansea City last Sunday.
Romelu Lukaku is ineligible to feature against his parent club, but is close to recovering from an ankle problem. Long-term absentees Arouna Kone, Darron Gibson and Bryan Oviedo are all still on the sidelines, but Antolin Alcaraz - whose campaign has been dogged by injuries - is available.
The hosts have no new injury concerns, although it remains to be seen whether captain John Terry will return from the muscle problem that has kept him out of Chelsea’s last three matches. However, Mourinho - who is unbeaten in 73 top-flight home games in charge at Stamford Bridge - may well shuffle his pack ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League trip to Galatasaray.
Chelsea, who are 11 games unbeaten in the league, were comfortably beaten by Manchester City in the FA Cup last weekend, but can pile the pressure on title rivals City and Arsenal by taking all three points.
Mourinho’s side kick-off before their rivals on Saturday, meaning a victory would move them four points clear of second-placed Arsenal for at least a few hours.