Premier League action is back at Stamford Bridge as Chelsea host Everton, both eyeing European football next season, ecplised by the return of the Blues former boss.
Carlo Ancelotti etched himself into London folk law by guiding Chelsea to their first domestic double back in 2009/10, achieving Premier League and FA Cup glory, yet now lines up against the man he formerly managed, Frank Lampard, in opposing dugouts.
The visitors have found a new lease of life under the Italian having struggled under Marco Silva, so expect a frantic fixture on Sunday afternoon.
Chelsea's busy scheduled showed no signs of slowing down after fighting across three competitions within a week, the most recent of which easily highlight of the past seven days.
League leaders Liverpool fell to the Chelsea sword midweek in the FA Cup, handing the Reds their third defeat in four after goals from Willian and Ross Barkley sealed the Blues place into the quarter finals.
This came off the back of a draw away to Bournemouth and a battering by Bayern Munich in the Champions League. The win against Liverpool was only Lampard's third in nine, accompanied by an uncomfortable run in the league, winning on just five occasions since the end of November.
Everton on the other hand have a much happier hunting ground at the moment under their new coach; only Liverpool and Manchester City have collected more points since Ancelotti took over on December 21st, loosing just twice in 11 games. A controversial 1-1 draw last time out against Manchester United kept them in the hunt for European action, just six points adrift of Chelsea in fourth spot.
Head to head
In their previous meeting, Everton ended up 3-1 victors, despite recently relinquishing the services of Silva, handing the reigns to caretaker manager Duncan Ferguson who found the right formula at Goodison Park. This meant the Toffees have not tasted defeat to Chelsea since 2017 (two wins two draws), having lost four consecutively prior.
A result that raises interest is the nine goal thriller in 2014, as the Blues managed to score six times during a crazy match on Merseyside, a season when Jose Mourinho made his return to England as a Premier League champion once again.
Only until recently have the pair become closer adversaries on the field; Chelsea went eight years without losing to Everton, ending finally on the 10th of February, 2010/
Lampard has been landed a truck load of injuries, the freshest of which is Mateo Kovacic: the Croat has arguably been the Blues best player this campaign, but an Achilles problem will force him out of the weekends game, whilst Willian has his own Achilles issue, casting doubts whether he can be available for selection.
Callum Hudson-Odoi has struggled with his own reocrruing hamstring problem and will not feature, alongside N'Golo Kante (adductor problem) and Tammy Abraham (ankle complaint). Jorginho is another absentee, missing out due to suspension.
Pairing of Christian Pulisic and Ruben Loftus-Cheek played an in-house game at Chelsea's training ground on Friday and Lampard will be hopeful the young duo will be fit enough for at least the bench.
Ancelotti will be boasted by the health of first-choice left back, Luca Digne, who has missed the past two league games through a muscle strain, but will be without Seamus Coleman on the opposite side through his own muscle strain.
Morgan Schneiderlin is the only obvious figure on the treatment table, thanks to a Torn meniscus.
Words from the managers
Lampard on his relationship with the Everton manager: "A very good one. Very well respected in house and the fans. He is a gentleman, fantastic manager. It was a good season under him.
"A great man manager. On a personal level, great at striking up relationships. Good tactically and great manner. I kept in touch with him now and again."
On Chelsea's extensive injury list: "I hope so, he’s not training with us yet. Hudson-Odoi had a re-injury and is having a scan later today. It’s tough for him. He wasn’t rushed back. He did it training back with us.
"It’s another injury for us. It hasn’t been spoken about it that much. We have had the worst injury list. We are working."
Ancelotti on the confidence of his side: "It's an important game. We went out after the game against United with a good confidence, we'll try to repeat against another strong team against Chelsea. The condition of the team is good in my opinion."
On his return Stamford Bridge, against the man he formerly managed: "I thought he could be a manager, he's doing really well. I hope the best for him. I don't know if I can shake his hand! It will be an emotional moment for me. I have fantastic memories of the period I was there. I'm really excited to come back."