David Moyes believes the task of defeating Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, "the toughest in the Premier League", may have become more problematic now that the champions have effectively eradicated any opposition in the title race.
Chelsea moved 15 points clear of second-placed Manchester United with Sunday's 2-0 defeat of Liverpool and, with Jose Mourinho yet to win the FA Cup and facing a Champions' League examination by Barcelona later this month, the Everton manager fears that the Portuguese coach could now afford to prioritise beyond the confines of the league title.
Everton's last chance of silverware rests on an FA Cup fourth-round replay at the Bridge tonight and the Scot explained: "I think Sunday's result was a big step towards retaining the Championship and it will give Chelsea more leeway for the Champions' League and the FA Cup. They could now play their stronger teams in those games and rotate in the league, but I am not going to tell the manager of Chelsea how to do his job."
Chelsea goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini, who will be handed a rare starting role against Everton, insists the title race is far from over, but as he followed the party line the Italian confirmed Moyes's concerns about Chelsea's intention to complete Mourinho's list of domestic honours. "What we have achieved is a great success," said Cudicini, who cancelled a flying lesson to attend the launch of Chelsea's Centenary DVD this week.
"We are in a very good position but we are not finished yet. Retaining the title is not easy but this season we have been very focused on repeating last season's success. The FA Cup is very important for us. It is a great competition and we want to be in the final."
Everton will discover today if Duncan Ferguson must serve a six-match suspension for his violent outburst at Wigan Athletic. The combustible centre-forward, sent off for punching Paul Scharner last week, received a second violent-conduct charge for striking Pascal Chimbonda in the mêlée and has requested a personal hearing with the FA's disciplinary committee.
The out-of-contract former Tottenham striker Steffen Iversen is training with Everton as Moyes continues his desperate search for a goalscorer.Reuse content