Crystal Palace v Everton: Match Preview
Wasn’t the City match great? A talented Manchester City attack were reduced to nothing and the tenacious blues prevailed in fine style, picking off the visitors at will to pull off a handsome 4-0 victory.
Even our weird neighbours then did us a favour, taking points of Manchester United to allow us to close the gap to 6th, leaving Everton 7 points adrift.
Fast forward 6 days and the blues travel to the south of London to face Crystal Palace on Saturday at 3pm in a match to be refereed by Anthony Taylor.
This Palace side sit 17th in the table, are yet to win in the Premier League under new manager Sam Allardyce and boast unimpressive league form of just 5 points taken from 30 available.
No, Allardyce isn’t Dappy or a garden gnome.
It’s the first of 5 matches where on paper, Everton should be favourites and as fans we’ll expect victories.
But, let’s face it, this is Everton and wouldn’t it be just like Everton to lose here (bearing in mind we’ve already had to stomach away defeats at Watford, Burnley, Southampton and Bournemouth, defeat at Palace isn’t out of the question).
Regardless of Palace’s poor form and low league position, Evertonians shouldn’t expect an easy afternoon at Selhurst Park.
The eagles will be boosted by a win against league 1 Bolton in the FA cup on Tuesday. Palace went behind that night but showed good resolve to come through, winning the game with 2 second half goals.
Palace fans will be hoping that those 2 goals, both scored by 32m summer signing Christian Benteke, will help ignite the form of the team as well as the big Belgian.
Everton should need no reminding of Benteke’s ability. The Belgian has found the net against the blues on a few occasions, including in the disappointing 1-1 draw at Goodison Park in late September.
Palace manager, Allardyce is renowned for making his teams hard to beat and eventually I’d expect it to click, let’s just hope it’s not on Saturday.
In regards to the players available to Allardyce, absentees include the influential Wilfried Zaha, forward Connor Wickham and goalkeeper Steve Mandanda.
The burly ex-England boss may provide new £12m signing Jeff Schlupp a debut, but as of Thursday morning, it looks unlikely the incoming Arsenal full back Carl Jenkinson will be registered in time to start on Saturday.
Away from the pitch, the Selhurst Park crowd will back their team as usual. The travelling blues can expect to hear continuous songs, especially from the ‘Ultra’ area behind the goal to the left of the visiting Evertonians.
As I write this on Thursday morning, there are no fresh injury concerns for the blues.
It’ll be interesting to see what system Ronald Koeman goes with for this match.
Plenty will be saying that a winning team shouldn’t be changed, but at the same time (with the greatest respect to Palace) a match against Crystal Palace is very different tactical proposition to a match against Manchester City.
Typically, Crystal Palace line up with; a flat back 4, 3 scrapping central midfield players, 2 wingers and a target man through the middle. Everton will have more of the ball against Palace than they did last week and the temptation might be to play an additional attacking option in place of a central defender.
Irrespective of the system Koeman selects, one temptation might be to bring his compatriot and preferred goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenberg back into the team. Personally, I don’t rate Stekelenberg very highly, but despite clean sheet statistics being firmly in Joel Robles favour, Koeman appears to prefer the Dutchman.
Another decision for the boss will be whether to award Morgan Schneiderlin a first Everton start. The midfield commander looked off the pace against City, but with a full week of training under his belt the new-boy may be ready to feature from the outset.
The blues will need to work on their defending of set plays, Palace have some strong aerial targets (Benteke and Dann especially) and marking such as what we saw at a similarly out of form side in Watford last month just won’t do on Saturday.
Everton will, as usual, look to their talismanic striker, Romelu Lukaku for goals. The Belgian has been in fine form having hit the net in his last three matches. He sits on 12 league goals and will be looking to improve on that in the coming weeks.
Alongside the hulking Belgian, the mercurial talents of Kevin Mirallas and Ross Barkley look to have found some form in recent weeks. Evertonians will be hoping they can continue this level of form as they strive for consistency that’s been all too lacking for the pair of them.
This is a match Everton will need to roll their sleeves up and get stuck in, I expect a combative match against a direct style of play with Palace placing an emphasis on getting it wide and into the box.
If the blues can keep pace and show some heart, forgetting all the ‘Everton, that’ which goes hand-in-hand with these kinds of fixtures, this really is a match Everton should be winning.
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