15:00 GMT, Saturday 10th February, Goodison Park (Liverpool England)
A win over Leicester little more than a week ago had many believing Sam Allardyce had finally got his Everton side at least some way around a particularly tricky corner. However, their heaviest league defeat of the season last weekend firmly dispelled such a notion.
Having enjoyed the best home form of any team outside of the top-six and being undefeated from the last six encounters with Palace, Everton can realistically hope to begin rebuilding their season once more this weekend.
For Palace, Roy Hodgson has already successfully rebuilt their season after an abysmal beginning. However, a lack of significant strengthening in January means that their current injury crisis is biting deep.
While the Eagles have only suffered defeat in three of their last 17 league matches, they’ve only won 2 of their 13 games away from home and now must find a way of doing so with a heavily depleted squad.
Last Time Out
Arsenal 5-1 Everton (Premier League)
The Toffees frail defence crumbled as the Gunners exploited a continuing problem despite a new centre-back making his debut.
Allardyce opted to bring Eliaquim Mangala straight into his team along with a 3-4-3 system as opposed to his usual back-four. The results of which failed to produce any additional resilience in the Blues who were 3-goals down inside 20 minutes and losing 4-0 at the interval.
A half-time change saw Michael Keane replaced by Tom Davies as Allardyce reverted to a back-four but while it may have steadied the side, Everton still failed to produce anything of note in attack.
It proved to be a wretched return to the Emirates for Theo Walcott who found the Arsenal fans chanting his name louder than the away fans following a glaring miss in the 27th minute.
After replacing the former Gunner from the bench, Dominic Calvert-Lewin scored a consolation for Everton and provided some cause for optimism. However, new striker Cenk Tosun also rose from the bench but once again was unable to impress for his new side who were well beaten in London.
Crystal Palace 1-1 Newcastle United (Premier League)
Palace fought back to take a point from their visitors after a poor first-half performance. After falling behind to a badly defended corner, Newcastle’s wastefulness meant the Eagles were still well in touch of the game.
The equalising goal came through a penalty when Ciaran Clark was punished for pulling Christian Benteke’s shirt.
While the incident split opinion as to whether it should have been awarded or not, Jonjo Shelvey was lucky not to concede a second penalty for Newcastle in the dying stages for a more blatant shirt-pull.
Palace finished the match the stronger side, with 14 shots taken on goal during the second half, however, many of Palace’s good chances were spurned by missing the target or a player opting to shoot rather than play in a better-positioned teammate.
There was also more injury worries for Hodgson when Martin Kelly limped from the game just before half-time. Mamadou Sakho rose from the bench to take his place and looked relatively assured in what was perhaps the biggest positive Palace took from this game.
Sam Allardyce’s injury list continues to shorten but he will still be without Leighton Baines (calf) and James McCarthy (leg) for this weekend’s match.
Ramiro Funes Mori is also unlikely to feature but the Argentine defender did make a return to action with the under-23 side on Monday after a long time out with a knee injury.
For this week’s starting lineup, Seamus Coleman is expected to return while Phil Jagielka could be paired in central defence after everyone else’s failure against the Gunners.
Crystal Palace Lineup
Martin Kelly (hamstring) and Wilfried Zaha (knee) join the ever-increasing injury list which also includes Jeffrey Schlupp (foot), Scott Dann (knee), Julian Speroni (knee), Jason Puncheon (knee), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (ankle), Connor Wickham (knee) and Bakary Sako (ankle).
This could put new striker. Alexander Sørloth in line for his debut.
Key Battle: Gylfi Sigurðsson (Everton) vs Andros Townsend (Crystal Palace)
After a return to his favourite position and a return to the type of form expected of him, Sigurðsson found himself once more dropped from Big Sam’s plans for last weekend’s trip to London.
In need of a creative force in his team, Allardyce should once more turn to the Icelandic midfielder to inspire his team.
While he only has one assist to show from his last four league appearances at Everton, he has been directly involved in six goals from his last five starts (2 goals, 4 assists) against the Eagles.
Meanwhile, Roy Hodgson will be without his main creative outlet as Zaha is unavailable this weekend.
In his place, Palace will need Andros Townsend to once more deliver for his team. With 6 assists in the league so far this season, he is Palace’s leading provider.
Townsend may not have gathered many headlines this season but with the Eagles short of attacking options, now is exactly the time his manager needs him to shine.
Spoilt for choice
Everton’s chaotic season continues to spin out of control due to a lack of defensive cohesion. Their 5-1 humbling at Arsenal was the second time the Gunners have put five past them this season and the sixth time they’ve conceded four or more goals this term.
While Sam Allardyce sets his team up and plays with a defensive mentality, he has been unable to stop the rot and restore confidence to his fragile team. With one of the largest senior playing squads in the Premier League, perhaps the greatest problem is too much choice.
The imminent return from injury of Funes Mori means Big Sam will have six centre-backs to choose from when selecting his team. In addition to this, he prefers to use two defence-minded midfielders in his team of which he currently has four at his disposal.
In failing to settle on regular partnerships in his team, there are no foundations on which to build towards success while players are also unable to play their way back into form.
Smoothing the Way
Following this weekend’s game against Everton, the Eagles face four of the top five sides in the league. This could easily see them slip worryingly down the table before the start of April.
If Palace win against the Toffees they will move onto 30 points, something which should go a long way to helping them keep their nerve in the latter stages of this campaign. Lose, however, and they could very well be neck-deep in a fight for survival with only teams around them to play against.
This is also assuming that Palace are unable to take a positive result from any of the top sides in the table. With Sakho back to marshal the defence and a good understanding in the squad regarding Hodgson’s tactics, Palace could prove a tough team to break down.
Either way, a win this weekend will certainly help Hodgson’s side enjoy the end of this season.
Prediction: Everton 2-0 Crystal Palace
Much of this result will hinge on the approach Big Sam takes in setting his team up for this match. Everton have a run of games starting this weekend which should be viewed as a great opportunity for Allardyce to get them back up to speed.
Palace’s injury woes coupled with the loss of Zaha, their most effective player by far, could see Palace begin to struggle over the next month and it’s the perfect chance for the Toffees to bounce back from the disappointment they suffered against the Gunners.
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