Inside track:

- Chelsea have scored 12 goals to date in the competition and conceded just four, while Everton have scored seven goals and conceded three

- This is Everton’s first home fixture in this season’s competition, having reached this stage by playing four matches on the road to date

- The teams last met at Goodison last season when Chelsea returned to London with a 3-2 victory thanks to a great late Chelsea have won the competition four times, with two of these coming in the past three seasons

- Everton have never won the competition, losing in the final twice - the last time back in 1984 to Merseyside rivals Liverpool when it was known as the Milk Cup

- Chelsea have appeared in nine semi-finals and progressed to the final on five occasions

- This is not Everton’s best competition – they have only reached the semi-final three times and failed to progress to the final once

- Frank Lampard is the leading scorer in the competition with four goals but they have all come at Stamford Bridge

- Everton's leading scorer is Yakubu with three but he is away playing in the African Cup of Nations strike form Didier Drogba who, like Yakubu, is in Ghana for the African Cup of Nations

- You have to go all the way back to November 2000 to find Everton’s last home win over Chelsea when they were 2-1 winners

- Chelsea are 15 matches unbeaten against Everton

- Chelsea go into this game on a seven-match unbeaten run since losing to Arsenal at the Emirates in mid-December

- The Toffees have lost four of their past seven matches including both cup matches, against Chelsea in the first leg of the semi final and going out of the FA Cup to Oldham

- Everton have fallen behind seven times this season and never come back to win, losing five and drawing twice

Link to latest reports in the Times

Reviewed by John Aizlewood for The Sunday Times

Nicolas Anelka is out to impress


The new-look Nicolas Anelka faces Everton on Wednesday with sights set on England place despite the previous bad press

The rain that left much of Chelsea’s training ground submerged last week served as a reminder that there are some things beyond even the control of Roman Abramovich’s billions.

However, the appearance of Nicolas Anelka squelching through the damp gloom was a sobering £15m confirmation that money has its uses, not least when Didier Drogba, until now undoubtedly the club’s most effective striker, is in Ghana seeing exactly what he can do for the Ivory Coast, perhaps until the final of the African Cup of Nations on February 10.

Combined fees of £66m, plus the paltry - but astonishing now - £500,000 that prised him from the clutches of Paris Saint-Ger-main into Arsène Wenger’s French Revolution at Arsenal in 1997, attest to Anelka’s value and the willingness of major clubs to acquire his services in the middle of his contracts. A goal ratio of one every 2.5 starts in some of the world’s toughest leagues, from the Premier League to La Liga and the caul-dron that is Turkey’s Süper Lig, explains why, as does his willingness to lead the line alone.

Yet there is something else, something we must euphemistically refer to as a “suspect temperament”, a phrase that covers a multitude of sins, but in Anelka’s case implies that he is difficult to work with, that he is selfish, that he is aloof and that he is likely to be going when the going gets tough. Anelka is carrying more baggage than a Heathrow terminal. Call him The Incredible Sulk, call him The Sulkathorus, call him Sir Sulkalot, call him Le Sulk, call him what you will, but without the bad press, one of Europe’s most extravagantly gifted footballers would have virtually no press at all.

"I know," the Muslim convert also known as Abdul-Salam Bilal admits. "People say things about me. It’s held me back. When people ask questions about your character rather than about what you do on the pitch, it is the very worst thing."

Indeed, when he moved to Bolton Wanderers from Turkish club Fenerbahce in 2006, the race for his signature contained just one horse. These days, the son of a council worker and a secretary who emigrated from Marti-nique in 1979 is a different beast, even from the one his fellow professionals appreciated to the extent they voted him PFA Young Player Of The Year in 1999. These days, even the body language, once suggesting a certain level of hunched, yes, sulkiness, has changed. These days, he even smiles and, while he wears a watch so extravagant it can surely tell the time on Venus, he never looks at it. The temperament appears different from the one Robbie Fowler, his striking partner at Manchester City, described when he referred to the Frenchman as "a selfish bastard. . . Itried to get a conversation going with him, but he just grunted at me, turned on his heels and walked away".

"The problem is simply that I am shy," Anelka insists. "I don’t like to speak too much, I just like to play football. Here at Chelsea I am even quieter on the training ground because I am new.

"You need never see the real Nicolas Anelka and that is fine with me because I am normal, just like you. I found it hard to avoid the limelight at Real Madrid, which is why I had to leave, but by the time I moved to Fenerbahce I was 25 and because of what had happened in Madrid, I knew how to deal with problems. My life is very simple: I don’t drink, I don’t fight, I don’t do anything wrong. I stay at home, I watch TV, I go out to restaurants with friends.

"I laugh - I love to laugh and I love to love. I am happy when I have to be happy, I am normal when I have to be normal and I am sad when I have to be sad." And on Wednesday, should Chelsea prevail against Everton in the Carling Cup semi-final second leg at Goodison Park, with Anelka’s assistance - made possible by Sammy Lee and Gary Megson’s decisions to rest first-teamers during Bolton’s games in the competition - the new man will make his first appearance at the new Wembley. He remembers the old stadium fondly enough, having scored both France’s goals when they defeated England 2-0 in 1999.

"A big game, a big win for the French. That’s it," he smiles, eschewing the temptation to rem-inisce. "I don’t look back."

And should Chelsea indeed go through, they may well face Arsenal (albeit their reserves), the club with whom Anelka made his name as both player and sulker and with whom he has repeatedly flirted since leaving north London for Real Madrid in exchange for £23m in 1999.

"To reach the Carling Cup final would be very, very good for me and for the club," he says. "It would be a great start for me to play in a final and to play at the new Wembley. But if we get there, it’s to win, not for me to play against Arsenal. The most important thing is to win the match for Chelsea, but it is not a dream for me - after all, I know that Chelsea can do it."

Anelka’s multi-layered relationship with Wenger is a psychologist’s delight. Wenger saw his potential and realised it, but Anelka gave Arsenal an air of maverick unpredictability that they have lacked until Emmanuel Adebayor finally blossomed. And Wenger’s reaction when Chelsea swooped was simply to muse that Anelka would rather have rejoined him.

"Arsenal could have signed me recently, but they didn’t. I don’t know why, but that’s life," admits Anelka. "I have nothing to prove to Arsène or to any big club who did not sign me. Arsène knows my courage and knows what I can do on the pitch. I like him, he’s a great manager and I became an international player under him. In fact, I still like Arsenal and I’ll never forget what happened there, but it’s in the past. Now I’m happy to be at Chelsea and I don’t look to know about Arsenal or Arsène."

Enticed to the Reebok stadium by Sam Allardyce’s sweet nothings, but frustrated by being the one on whom Bolton’s Premiership destiny mostly rested ("It’s hard where you are the biggest signing and you have to score goals. I liked it at Bolton but I didn’t like being the only one who could do good things on the pitch, so I wanted to be at a bigger club") and by being on a different on-field wavelength from his less blessed colleagues, a conversation with Chelsea mid-fielder Claude Makelele six months ago alerted him to the prospect of joining Jose Mour-inho’s side. More recently, Mourinho’s replacement, Avram Grant, showed that Jew and Muslim could work in harmony by sealing the deal.

"Chelsea really wanted me. That’s why I’m here, plus they are a big club with many French-speaking players. Even before I joined I knew it was great what Avram Grant has done since he’s been here. He is very good and he is very calm, but you know what he wants you to do and where he wants you to go."

And so the 28-year-old from Versailles finds himself at the peak of his footballing powers, a man standing where a boy once slouched, once again at a club where he is a big fish in an appropriately sized pool, the latest instalment of a curious, peripatetic career.

"I’m a better player at a bigger club,“ he says. “You play more big games, you play more Champions League games, you play alongside better players and that makes you a better player."

Chelsea’s No 39 ("there is no special reason," he says with a smile), the man who never looks back, doesn’t quite regret rien.

"Real Madrid," he sighs. "There was a situation with some of the players. I wanted to speak to people inside the club, but they wouldn’t speak to me. So I refused to train. Then there was big trouble. If I could change something I have done, it’s that. I should have trained first and then spoken."

His other cause for regret is Liverpool, the sole former employer whose results he claims to look for, despite only being on loan at Anfield. In an era when Gerard Houllier favoured the elusive gifts of Jari Litmanen, Patrik Berger and Emile Heskey, Anelka came, scored four times in 13 league starts and was unceremoniously jettisoned.

"Gerard Houllier told me he was going to sign me. I really wanted to sign for them. It didn’t happen and I never understood why. This was very hard for me, since what I did on the pitch was good enough to get me signed. I was very surprised and very disappointed."

The fire in his eyes subsides. Nothing to prove? Not quite. "Not to other clubs no, but to the Chelsea manager, to the Chelsea fans and to everybody at Chelsea, I have everything to prove." And with that, he is gone, a most summery spring in his step for winter-time.

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