Everton’s scouts believe they have found a chink in the Blues armour ahead of this weekend’s clash at Goodison Park.
They have reported back to Toffees’ boss Roberto Martinez that Chelsea’s new first-choice keeper, Thibaut Courtois, is a fine shot-stopper and a top-notch long-thrower… but he is so left-sided that if he is forced to make an emergency right-foot clearance, the ball could go anywhere.
It’s an issue with the Belgian goalie’s game that only really came to the fore during last weekend’s 2-0 defeat of Leicester City at Stamford Bridge, although Chelsea’s coaching staff are aware of it.
Ninety-nine times out of 100 it is no problem. The Blues’ back line of Cesar Azpilicueta, John Terry, Gary Cahill and Branislav Ivanovich (unchanged for two successive wins) know to pass back to Courtois’ left peg.
But as Leicester started brightly at the Bridge, the tactic came unstuck in the fourth minute when the 22-year-old was forced to clear right-footed, and miscued so badly that the ball almost went out for a corner.
The Everton observers have noted the deficiency… but so has Jose Mourinho, who may opt to play Petr Cech between the sticks at Goodison.
Jose has confidence in Courtois’ positioning after a string of good saves – including a critical one-on-one against Foxes’ striker David Nugent in the 55th minute of the Leicester game, with the score still 0-0.
But he knows that Cech, also a left-footer, is able to clear confidently from both sides.
The Chelsea manager will make more use of his squad – Fernando Torres among them – when the fixtures pile up in four weeks’ time, as Carling Cup and Champions League matches join the weekly diet of League clashes.
He now knows his top-choice line-up (“I decided to keep with the same team,” he said after the Leicester game), but will make a couple of tweaks for the trip to Everton.