Chelsea’s Barkley anticipates hostile reception from Everton’s visiting supporters
>> LONDON: Chelsea midfielder Ross Barkley is braced for a hostile reception when his old club Everton visit Stamford Bridge today.
Barkley left Everton to join Chelsea in January after 13 years at Goodison Park and this weekend faces the Toffees for the first time since that controversial move.
The 24-year-old did not play for Everton in the last seven months of his time on Merseyside due to a hamstring problem and eventually moved to Chelsea in a cut-price £15 million deal.
With his contract winding down, Barkley had initially been linked with Tottenham before the Chelsea switch and his desire to further his career away from Everton, combined with the protracted nature of the transfer, soured his time with Toffees fans.
Barkley expects those Everton supporters to make their feelings known when he comes face to face with them in west London, but although he admits it will be a “strange” experience he is determined not to be intimidated.
“I don’t think the reception will be the best,” Barkley told the Evening Standard.
“I’m not nervous, I’m excited to play against my former club and teammates. I understand how some of them play, so that could be an advantage for me.
“On the day I might get a few nerves as it will feel a bit strange. I’m looking forward to catching up with some of the staff there who I used to get on really well with.”
After struggling to break into the Chelsea team under previous boss Antonio Conte last season, Barkley has impressed new manager Maurizio Sarri.
The England international has become a regular under Sarri, scoring three goals in his last five Chelsea appearances.
“I was approaching 25 and I felt looking back I could have improved a lot more [at Everton],” Barkley said.
“At Chelsea I knew I’d improve a lot quicker around better players, worldclass players.”
Sarri must decide whether to use Alvaro Morata up front after the Spain forward’s brace in last weekend’s 3-1 win over Crystal Palace.
The Italian described Morata as “fragile” after some diffident performances this term and Sarri could keep faith with Olivier Giroud, who ended a six-month barren streak with the decisive strike in Chelsea’s 1-0 Europa League win at BATE Borisov on Thursday.
France striker Giroud quipped he contemplated seeking religious help, prior to ending a run of 794 minutes without a Chelsea goal.
“It’s true I’ve been looking forward to it. I kept working hard in training, kept the faith. I always score goals,” Giroud said.
“I’m happy for the team and for myself I hope I will have the opportunity to score more.
“I was thinking shall I see a priest or something like that? No, I’m joking.”
Chelsea’s Ross Barkley, right, in action against BATE Borisov.