Feyenoord visit Stamford Bridge on Wednesday, joining Gianluca Vialli's side at the Champions' League gourmet feast to which only Europe's notional top 16 are invited. Such sumptuous circumstances contrast markedly with yesterday's events at Goodison, where Chelsea were grateful for the scrap of a single point, garnered for them in the last seconds of added time by their Norwegian striker Tore Andre Flo.
Two extra minutes had been indicated by the fourth official; 80 seconds of that time had elapsed. Then Jes Hogh, a late second-half substitute, bulldozed stubbornly to the byline and, amid panicky Evertonian defending, located Flo, who rifled in the equaliser with relieved delirium.
For Everton - whose supporters were relishing the prospect of leapfrogging their visitors and consolidating a top 10 position - it was a stunning, silencing disappointment. They now have not won any of their six games since the derby victory at Anfield in September.
It would be unfair to describe Chelsea's escape as lucky. Their determination to invent and improvise in the face of a sequence of disruptive events did them credit.
From the start, the fates appeared to conspire against them. Spookily echoing the international problem du jour, Chelsea wasted no time in acquiring a problem down their left flank. Just 30 seconds into the game Gabriele Ambrosetti pulled up lame and, though his replacement Roberto di Matteo turned out to be one of the game's foremost creative forces, it was down that side that Everton fashioned their goal.
Alex Cleland, overlapping adventurously from full-back, engineered sufficient space to locate Francis Jeffers with a low cross. The young striker - returning from injury - juggled adroitly before presenting Kevin Campbell with the opportunity to fire home his eighth goal of the season.
Chelsea, who are without a Premiership win since their 5-0 thumping of Manchester United at the start of last month, left Gianfranco Zola on the bench; Gus Poyet was not even there. However, with Jody Morris buzzing industriously in place of the suspended Dennis Wise, their creative potential was ever-near to fulfilment. But for a marvellous reflex save by Paul Gerrard in the Everton goal, Flo would have levelled the scores before half-time.
Soon after the break, Vialli rearranged his personnel and formation. Zola was introduced to operate behind Chris Sutton and Flo; Petrescu was withdrawn from a midfield which became three-strong.
Chelsea were thrown into fresh confusion when Frank Leboeuf, booked shortly before half-time for a challenge on Campbell, slid zealously towards Nick Barmby and was dismissed. As a consequence Sutton slipped back into his former role as a centre-half.
Everton seemed sufficiently solid to hang on. Don Hutchison, cheered to the Gladwys Street rafters for his midweek heroics at Wembley, was again in "midfield warrior" mode.
Otherwise, Walter Smith had rejigged his weary Scots prudently. John Collins, presumably drained by the events of the week, was left on the bench. With David Weir suspended, international absentee Richard Gough returned.
His stability was almost too much for Chelsea, whose games in hand are barely sufficient now to keep them in touch with the top. Increasingly, it seems their participation in next year's Champions' League may depend on their winning it this season.Reuse content