Thomas Tuchel insists there is no reason for Chelsea to panic after seeing their place as Premier League leaders usurped by Manchester City.
The European champions looked imperious in the opening weeks of the season, winning all but two of their first 10 league games and conceding just once from open play.
However, a run of only three wins from their most recent six league matches, during which they have conceded eight times and kept only one clean sheet, has seen Chelsea fall from first to third in the standings.
Liverpool sit second, while City, who thrashed Leeds United 7-0 on Tuesday, are five points ahead of the Blues having played a game more.
Chelsea’s defence has also been unusually sloppy recently, with Tuchel’s team conceding eight goals in their last three games in all competitions, as many as they had in their previous 18 combined.
Yet Tuchel says now is not the time to “give up” as his side look to follow up their 3-2 win over Leeds – delivered courtesy of a stoppage-time penalty from Jorginho – against struggling Everton.
“Not so long ago it was the opposite position and Man City turned things around,” he said. “At the moment, they have good form, and they show it. They show their quality. There was never a doubt they have the quality because for years they’ve shown this consistency with Liverpool.
“We knew before that if we wanted to compete with City and Liverpool for the title, we would face adversity and tough moments. So we can’t be surprised now, and we can’t give up. We knew this before and enjoy being in the middle of difficult moments.
“Maybe it’s what we need at the moment to overcome. We were lucky at the weekend but didn’t feel blessed with luck against West Ham. We didn’t have the luck against Burnley. So we should not start to say sorry for a late victory. We found a way to win the game.”
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N’Golo Kante will be fit enough to make the bench for Thursday’s game at Stamford Bridge, as will Trevoh Chalobah, while Tuchel hopes Romelu Lukaku can manage over an hour against one of his former sides.
The Belgium striker, who was sidelined for around a month with an ankle injury, has not scored in the top flight since a double in the 3-0 win over Aston Villa on September 11.
“Fitness, we can debate endlessly,” said Tuchel. “The player will say he is fit, but maybe the fitness coaches will agree and disagree. Then comes the head coach and maybe he disagrees.
“We let him play 70-something minutes against Zenit, and then we had travelling, a lack of sleep, and an intense opponent with Leeds. Because we decided not to put him in this turmoil, I think he can play 70 minutes, but we will see.”
Lukaku is Everton’s highest ever goalscorer in the Premier League, having plundered 68 goals for the Toffees. However, he has netted just once in his five appearances against Everton in the competition, doing so with Manchester United in September 2017.
Chelsea are unbeaten in their last 26 Premier League home games against Everton (W15 D11) since a 1-0 loss in November 1994. If they avoid defeat, it would equal their longest ever unbeaten home run against an opponent in their league history (27 vs Tottenham between 1990 and 2016).