Everton vs Crystal Palace

, 15 April, 0comments  |  Jump to most recent
Match Preview

The number of remaining games keeps diminishing and with every Everton victory, Champions League qualification edges a little closer. Saturday's win at Sunderland set a club record for consecutive wins in the Premier League era and an eighth tomorrow evening against Crystal Palace, the Blues' crucial game in hand, will keep them in the driving seat in the race for fourth place, regardless of how Arsenal fare against West Ham.

In the context of the psychology as the two clubs duel for that coveted place in the top four, the hurricane-force wins that forced the last-minute postponement of this fixture in 12th February were a blessing in disguise for Everton — Roberto Martinez's side have powered through their seven-game winning streak knowing that they had an extra game in their back pocket.

Not only that, there was no Romelu Lukaku available on the original date as the Belgian was recovering from an ankle injury sustained two weeks previously in the Anfield derby and both Ross Barkley and Gerard Deulofeu were feeling their way back from their own injuries. Martinez named Steven Naismith and Aiden McGeady in the starting XI that night, two players who had not by that pointscaught the collective Evertonian imagination and there was a feeling that a rapidly improving Palace side would cause the Blues problems in very windy conditions.

The Blues are altogether stonger now in terms of personnel, experience and mentality and with belief growing all the time, they are in great shape to win this game if they maintain their focus and, importantly, their intensity. Vitally, with no further injury concerns and his players — Gareth Barry, in particular — making it past Sunday's yellow card amnesty, all the players who were in the squad at the Stadium of Light at the weekend should be available again for selection.

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Phil Jagielka has been pencilled in as being fit again this weekend for the visit of Manchester United so will miss out again, leaving John Stones to further cement his growing reputation as an impossibly composed central defensive prospect. Barkley, Aiden McGeady and Kevin Mirallas will be pushing for places in the team after starting on the bench against Sunderland.

The weather will be better this time but Tony Pulis' team will still likely prove problematic opponents. The ex-Stoke boss has lifted the South London side away from relegation trouble in impressive fashion since replacing Ian Holloway. Indeed, in the reverse fixture at Selhurst Park, the Eagles were rock bottom of the table but they're now just three points short of the "magic" 40-point mark having won three games on the bounce.

They will come to Goodison in confident mood, having beaten Chelsea two weeks ago and offer the prospect of physical, powerful opposition with threats on the counter attack. They beat Cardiff convincingly 3-0 away the Saturday before last but struggled on the grounds of other struggling teams likes Newcastle, Swansea and Sunderland, losing the the Barcodes and drawing the other two.

Those results should give the Blues plenty of cause for optimism but, again, the clear truth of the matter is that if Everton match the same intensity, drive and attacking fluidity with which they blew Arsenal away, then Palace will be no match for them.

In many ways, there is more trepidation about this potentially tricky fixture than the arguably more difficult game looming on Sunday simply because a meeting with United and a chance to put one over David Moyes generates all the necessary passion from the crowd and players that we'll need. Hopefully, the prize of Champions League football that will look so much more attainable if we can win these consecutive home games, will sufficiently fire up the fans and the team to comfortably despatch of Palace so that we can keep hold of fourth place.

Kick off: 7.45pm
Referee: Andre Marriner

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