The FourFourTwo Preview: Everton vs Crystal Palace
Top four versus top of bottom half.
- S'land 0-1 Everton (Prem)
- Everton 3-0 Arsenal (Prem)
- Fulham 1-3 Everton (Prem)
- Newcastle 0-3 Everton (Prem)
- Everton 3-2 Swansea (Prem)
CRYSTAL PALACE FORM
- Palace 1-0 Aston Villa (Prem)
- Cardiff 0-3 Palace (Prem)
- Palace 1-0 Chelsea (Prem)
- Newcastle 1-0 Palace (Prem)
- S'land 0-0 Palace (Prem)
When the two teams played out a goalless draw in November, Palace were between managers and bottom of the pile – doomed to relegation, it seemed, even if Lazarus himself had arrived in the Selhurst Park dugout.
Everton, despite a promising start and a more expansive approach under the Spaniard, were never expected to go the distance in the race for Champions League places, small squad and all that.
Yet, it’s the Toffees who apparently have most to play for this week; more incredible than their destiny now being in their own hands is the fact Palace are already safe barring a miracle.
That’s what six straight wins at the top of the table and three at the bottom will do in The Most Exciting Premier League Season Ever!
The Eagles’ achievements are even more amazing when you consider they scored just one goal in five games prior to these three victories and have managed just 24 all season, a league low.
But you can get away with it when, according to Martinez, you have the division’s “best defensive unit”.
In fact, despite all their plaudits for sexy football, Everton’s ascent has been built at the back too.
Not only do they have the Prem’s second best defensive record, they’ve also unearthed a gem in John Stones.
Injured captain and England defender Phil Jagielka has barely been missed in recent weeks.
Consistency in selection means consistency in results if these two teams’ recent records are anything to go by. Palace are unchanged in three – leaving Marouane Chamakh, Tom Ince and Glenn Murray on the bench – while Martinez’s only tricky decision has been whether to start Leon Osman or Ross Barkley as the playmaker.
Darron Gibson and Jagielka are close to a return for the Toffees, while Palace have no fresh injuries or suspensions, providing midfielders Yannick Bolasie and Kagisho Dikgacoi come through fitness tests.
Key battle: Gareth Barry vs Joe Ledley
Two unsung heroes, although their managers have been doing plenty of singing about them. Barry has prompted talk of an England recall with his displays alongside James McCarthy in Everton’s engine room.
Against Arsenal, he was in imperious form, misplacing only 4 passes, losing just a single header and nullifying the threat of Arsenal’s playmakers.
Ledley has been employed behind the main striker by Pulis with great success. Against Cardiff, possession was at a premium but he used it well, with one slide-rule assist. The Welshman also uses his experience as a full-back and wide man to fill in defensively where necessary; his interceptions ensuring attacks are often snuffed out before they’ve got going.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Palace 0-0 Everton (Prem, Nov 13)
- Everton 4-0 Palace (Prem, Apr 05)
- Palace 1-3 Everton (Prem, Aug 04)
- Everton 1-1 Palace (LC, Sep 01)
- Palace 1-3 Everton (Prem, Jan 98)
It’s been an interesting week for both gaffers with Pulis having to wave off suggestions of ‘spying’ on recent opponents Cardiff and Martinez fielding questions about Liverpool lining up a move for Barkley. In eight meetings between the two managers, Pulis has failed to register a single win, although all of those games were between former clubs Wigan and Stoke. Martinez has called on Everton’s crowd to be their 12th man for this game, knowing full well that the Eagles are unlikely to roll over, despite their position of relative comfort.
Facts and figures
- Everton have won 3 and lost 0 of the last 5 meetings with Palace in all competitions.
- The Eagles have failed to find the net in 5 of their last 7 away games in the Premier League.
- Palace last won back-to-back Premier League away matches since November 1997.
- The Toffees have won 7 successive Premier League matches at Goodison Park – they last won 8 home league games in a row in April 1990.
- Everton have won their last 7 Premier League games, they last won 8 league games in a row in May 1985.
- Palace have won their last 3 Premier League games in a row; they last won 4 on the spin in the top-flight in November 1994.
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Everton made to work hard for the win. 1-0.