After a week of warm weather training in Qatar Everton travel to London to play Alan Pardew’s Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Saturday afternoon. This is a fixture that hasn’t treated Everton kindly since Palace were promoted back to the Premier League in 2013. Palace have triumphed in both of the games at Goodison Park 3-2 whilst a goalless draw at Palace last season means Everton have not beaten Palace since a 4-0 win at Goodison back in 2005. Mikel Arteta, 2 goals from Tim Cahill and James Vaughan becoming the youngest ever Premier League goal scorer secured the points that day. The last meeting between the 2 sides came back in September when Palace came from 1-0 down from a less than impressive Everton side to take a 3-1 lead before a late consolation goal from Leighton Baines made the final score 3-2.
A lot has changed at Palace since then, after bringing in new manager Alan Pardew Palace have gone on an excellent run of form having won all 4 games scoring 12 goals in that time and only conceding 5. As well as that, Palace haven’t been shy in the transfer market and have signed 3 players so far this January, Yaya Sanogo, Shola Ameobi and Jordan Mutch, all but Shola Ameobi – who is couple of weeks away from full fitness – are available for Saturdays game.
In Palace’s last Premier League outing, Dwight Gayle scored a brace as the Eagles fought back from 2-0 down at Burnley to earn an impressive victory at Turf Moor. Everton’s last game came in the shape of a dull 0-0 draw at home to West Brom, a result which meant that Everton extended their run without a win to 8 games in all competitions and still searching for their first win of 2015. It is a game in which Everton are desperate for a win with Liverpool and away games against Chelsea and Arsenal coming up in the following 4 games after this fixture.
After what has been an injury stricken season so far for Everton it appears there is some good news as James McCarthy looks set to finally make his return from injury whilst Kevin Mirallas and Muhamed Besic also look set to be included in the squad after injury concerns over the last couple of weeks. Joel Robles is expected to start in goal with Tim Howard yet to make a return from injury. Palace look set to be missing 4 first team player as Jonathan Williams who has been out with a groin injury since November will miss out on the game and new signing Shola Ameobi still not fully fit. Mile Jedinak and Yannick Bolaise are still away on international duty so won’t be available for selection. Alan Pardew is expected to recall the likes of keeper Julian Speroni as well as Dwight Gayle and Jason Puncheon.
I would personally love to see Everton change the formation to surprise the opposition. A 4-4-2 diamond could work well with McCarthy at the tip of the diamond and Besic alongside Barkley with Naismith leading the diamond. Lukaku and Mirallas could be a perfect strike partnership with one having plenty of pace and skill with Lukaku offering something completely different in the shape of pure strength and power. This formation could be key to our defensive issues and rediscovering the art of attacking fullbacks – something we appear to have lost this season. When Baines and Coleman are forward the 2 centre backs could spread out leaving McCarthy to drop in. This would keep us with a solid defensive line whilst still having Besic and Barkley in midfield so as we are not outnumbered in the midfield battle. Although I’d love to see this I doubt Martinez will change his philosophy having been so successful with it in the past.
I expect Martinez to stick with his usual back four, Seamus Coleman, John Stones, Phil Jagielka and Leighton Baines despite a return to fitness for Sylvain Distin. The return of James McCarthy means that out of form Gareth Barry is likely to be dropped and McCarthy should line up in midfield alongside in form Muhamed Besic. After a run of poor performances Ross Barkley could be dropped from the starting line up with Naismith likely to play in the number 10 role just behind striker Romelu Lukaku. Kevin Mirallas will surely start on one wing whilst the other winger could be Aiden McGeady due to Everton’s lack of depth in that area with Ross Barkley another possibility to play in that position.
It is something Evertonian’s have been saying a lot recently but this really is a must win game for the toffees with the fixture list not treating them nicely in the upcoming weeks. A win could kick start a miserable season for the blues whilst a win for the Eagles would continue a great start to life under Alan Pardew.
Line up I’d like to see (4-4-2 diamond):
Predicted line up (4-2-3-1):
Score prediction: 2-1 Everton
Choose your Everton here.