””

ToffeeTalk

Chelsea game will mark our improvement

It's fair to say we have a score to settle when we face Chelsea at Goodison Park this weekend, given our 0-5 loss in the reverse fixture.

But this is another game and with our fans behind us, we are all focused on showing how much we have improved as a team since that game at Stamford Bridge.

We know that when we play to our best at Goodison Park, we are force for anyone, as Manchester City and Arsenal have discovered this season.

So our game against the Premier League leaders will be approached by us in exactly that way, with that mindset and with a conviction that has underpinned our performances at home throughout 2017.

Our recent win against Burnley was our eighth successive home victory, which is a record for the club in the Premier League era, I believe.

We like to play with a high tempo, get on the front foot and dictate games. The manager speaks about playing aggressive football, which is what we have managed to do in a lot of these games.

Our objective this weekend will be to make it hard for Chelsea and to not allow them to breathe or have any space on the pitch.

Our objective this weekend will be to make it hard for Chelsea and to not allow them to breathe or have any space on the pitch.

We can't allow players like Eden Hazard, Willian, Pedro Rodriguez and Diego Costa to create chances, which is going to be difficult because they are quality players who can kill you in a split second.

I'm also looking forward to facing N'Golo Kante, who is having another incredible season.

When Kante first came to England, no-one knew about him, but he has just been voted PFA Player of the Year, and deservedly so. He was the player I voted for.

He won the Premier League title with Leicester City last season but I think he has stepped up another level since joining Chelsea.

For me, every successful team needs a player like Kante. He is superb at winning back possession, he's very intelligent, he uses the ball cleverly, and doesn't commit many fouls.

Idrissa Gueye has actually been even more successful at winning back possession and has committed fewer fouls over the course of the season and, for us, is a hugely important player in the same mould as Kante.

Chelsea, of course, are a very well organised team, so we will need to work hard to find a way of breaking them down. We need to bring that intensity to our game from the outset.

I have watched Chelsea a number of times this season and if we are able to restrict their key players then I believe we will get chances against them and, in players like Romelu Lukaku, we have people who can punish them.

Chelsea know they cannot afford to lose against us and drop points because Tottenham are chasing them in the race for the title and are breathing down their necks.

Everton have everything to play for, too. It has been a really good first season under Ronald Koeman, our fans fill our ground every game and this one will be no different.

European football will be back at Goodison next season and we are very much looking forward to this as a club. But our immediate objective is to finish strongly as high as we can in the Premier League table.

It's important we finish the season strongly for the fans and for the badge. Then we can carry some good momentum into next season when we will look to make further progress.

• Toffee Talk is an occasional exclusive column by English Premier League club Everton for The Straits Times that gives a more intimate look inside Goodison Park.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 29, 2017, with the headline 'Chelsea game will mark our improvement'. Print Edition | Subscribe