European champions Chelsea will hope to end a successful but dramatic 2012 with victory at Goodison Park, on interim manager Rafael Benitez's first competitive return to Merseyside in two years. Everton have had an exceptional season so far, and David Moyes' side will not be an easy target for the Blues.
The Blues will kick off in fourth place in the Premier League, having dropped a place after Tottenham's 2-1 win at Sunderland on Saturday. The Stamford Bridge club have 35 points from 18 games so far and trail Spurs by a point, with the Manchester clubs - City and United - who also won on Saturday - seven and 14 points in front respectively. However, Chelsea have two games in hand over their immediate rivals (including the fixture against Everton).
The Toffees, meanwhile, will start in sixth. Moyes continues to produce remarkable results on a shoestring budget and the club's haul of 33 points so far keeps them well in contention for European football next year. Their immediate rivals, apart from Chelsea, are Arsenal and West Brom, who won and lost their respective games on Saturday.
This fixture last year resulted in a 2-0 win for the home side, with Steven Pienaar and Denis Stracqualursi heaping pressure on then Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas.
Where to Watch Live
Kick-off is at 1.30pm GMT. Live coverage starts half an hour before on Sky Sports 1 and Sky Sports 1 HD. Catch highlights on Match of the Day 2 on BBC One and BBC One HD, at 10.25pm GMT.
Much of the talk ahead of this game is likely to centre on Benitez's return to Merseyside. The former Liverpool manager led the Reds between 2004 and 2010 and Moyes has admitted beating the Reds during that period was extremely difficult.
Everton come into this game on the back of a 2-1 home win over Wigan Athletic on Boxing Day. The Toffees have an impressive home record this season; they are one of only two clubs (the other being Stoke City) who are unbeaten at home. The club has won five of nine games played at Goodison Park, a run that includes wins over Manchester United and Tottenham.
In addition, Moyes continues the tradition of creating Everton sides that are extremely hard to defeat; there have been only two defeats this season, the joint-least in the Premier League with Manchester City. The last time they lost a league match was back in early November, when relegation candidates Reading shocked them at the Madejski... a run of seven games unbeaten.
There is much on offer for Everton if they can walk away with all three points from this match, not least the chance to leapfrog Arsenal and Chelsea into fourth place - the final Champions League qualifying position. Indeed, depending on the final score, the Goodison Park faithful could even celebrate deposing Tottenham from third and welcome 2013 in style.
Should the hosts lose this match, they will remain in sixth place; unless the Blues repeat the 8-0 hammering of Aston Villa from last week, in which case Everton will slip below West Brom.
Meanwhile, Chelsea will saunter into Goodison Park with their confidence at a high, following a third straight win in all competitions and a run of form, under Benitez, which has seen them lose only twice since 1 December... a run of eight games.
The Blues followed the emphatic win over the Villans with a controlled display over Norwich on Boxing Day. Spanish playmaker Juan Mata scored the only goal of the game and Chelsea are now firmly in contention for third place, at the very least, this season.
Away results have been good this season, with five wins (and only two defeats) in nine games. Scoring goals may be an issue, with those nine games yielding only 15 strikes but if £50m signing Fernando Torres can continue his excellent form (seven goals in as many games), Everton will have good reason to be worried.
- Last Five (all competitions, most recent first): W W D W D
- Last Match: Everton 2 - 1 Wigan Athletic
- Last Five (all competitions, most recent first): W W W L W
- Last Match: Norwich City 0 - 1 Chelsea
The good news for Everton is the red card shown to midfielder Darron Gibson (in the match against West Ham United) has been overturned. The Republic of Ireland international is available for this game but faces a late fitness test on a thigh injury. Belgian midfielder Marouane Fellaini remains suspended and will be sorely missed.
Meanwhile, Dutch international John Heitinga did play against Wigan but the 29-year-old is reportedly unhappy at Goodison Park and may not feature on this occasion. Seamus Coleman (groin) is a doubt, as is former Manchester United defender Phil Neville (knee). Tony Hibbert (calf) and Kevin Mirallas (hamstring) are both definitely ruled out.
Probable Line-Up: Howard; Neville, Jagielka, Distin, Baines; Osman, Hitzlsperger, Gibson, Pienaar; Jelavic; Anichebe
Chelsea may make some changes to the side that beat Norwich but these are more likely to be result of squad rotation. Benitez may bring Belgian attacker Eden Hazard back into the side, after resting the 21-year-old mid-week. Should that happen, Brazilian Oscar is likely to drop to the bench.
Other rotation measures could include Oscar's compatriot, Ramires, returning in place of John Obi Mikel. Veteran England midfielder Frank Lampard is another option. The defence is likely to be unchanged, as is the presence of David Luiz as a holding midfielder.
John Terry (knee), Ryan Bertrand (groin) and Oriol Romeu (knee) are definitely ruled out.
Probable Line-Up: Cech; Azpilicueta, Cahill, Ivanovic, Cole; Luiz, Lampard; Hazard, Mata, Moses; Torres