Chelsea will look to keep pace with Manchester City at the top of the Premier League table when they take on Everton at Stamford Bridge this Sunday.
And one player who will undoubtedly be hoping to make an impression is Ross Barkley, who will be coming up against his former club for the first time since leaving them in controversial fashion back in January.
After initially turning down Chelsea’s advances last summer, Barkley eventually arrived at Stamford Bridge for a discounted price due to his expiring contract, much to the anger of Everton supporters.
Barkley is now set to feature against his boyhood club when they make the trip to west London, and the 24-year-old faces a potential midfield battle against Andre Gomes.
So how do Everton’s past and present compare?
When Barkley first joined Chelsea halfway through last season, many questioned the signing, believing the midfielder would struggle to break into Antonio Conte’s team.
And while that turned out to be the case, the former Everton man was always viewed as a long-term investment by the club with director Marina Granovskaia saying as much upon his arrival at Stamford Bridge.
“Ross is a player we have long admired and are certain he will prove to be an important player for Chelsea,” Roman Abramovich’s right-hand woman told Chelsea’s official club website (via Evening Standard).
It might have not looked like it at the time, but those words are slowly starting to come to fruition. Under Maurizio Sarri’s tutelage, Barkley appears rejuvenated and has performed exceptionally well in recent weeks.
The England international managed to bag goals against Southampton, Burnley and the all-important equaliser in Chelsea’s 2-2 draw with Manchester United while also notching up a few assists along the way.
Having initially been on the periphery at Chelsea, Barkley is now an important figure in the squad.
TT Grade: B+
Like Barkley, Gomes has also made a slow start to life at his new club, largely due to injury. However, in the few appearances he has made for Everton, he has shown glimpses of what he is capable of and why manager Marco Silva brought him in.
From the middle of the park, the Portuguese playmaker is able to dictate games with his passing, while he also has the vision to pick out his team-mates in dangerous areas of the pitch.
For whatever reason, it simply did not work out for Gomes at Barcelona. But he is still a quality player who Silva is clearly backing to flourish at Goodison Park.
“This is just the beginning. Andre can give many, many different things for us,” the Everton boss told Evertontv after Gomes’ debut versus Crystal Palace last month. “He did well against Crystal Palace and has all the qualities to do better and better.”
The early glimpses of class which Gomes has showcased in midfield has endeared him to the Goodison Park faithful, who are excited to see how his career develops on Merseyside, and talk of a potential permanent deal is already beginning to emerge.
All in all, especially considering the type of midfielder Gomes is compared to Everton’s other crop, the former Valencia man should prove to be a shrewd acquisition for the Toffees.
TT Grade: B
Chelsea and Everton will both be pleased with the fact that they were able to add Barkley and Gomes to their squads in relatively cheap deals.
And should the latter be able to rediscover the form he showed during his time at the Mestalla as a Valencia player, then Everton supporters will quickly forget about their former English midfielder.
But until then, it is hard to look past Barkley being the better capture. While Gomes is probably the more intelligent player out of the two, Barkley’s all-round game is superior.
He can pass, carry the ball and is a terrific shooter from long distances. Therefore, the Chelsea man wins this battle.