Who’d have thought that Crystal Palace would head into this game as the in-form team of the fixture? Well you better believe it, because this Wednesday Palace will be quietly confident of giving Everton a real run for their money – despite fortress Goodison proving a difficult venue. Tony Pulis has worked wonders to guide Palace away from the tag of sure Premier League dropouts and towards a chance at survival but this will prove to be one of his hardest tests as the Eagles’ boss.
The London side have four wins and two draws in their last ten games, which represents very decent form for a team whose sole objective is to avoid relegation. Everton on the other hand have stuttered in recent weeks after two defeats to their fellow top four rivals. The 4-0 reversal to Liverpool was a dark day in an otherwise positive campaign but the 1-0 defeat to Spurs at the weekend was a worry with the Toffees unable to capitalise on their first half dominance – after two defeats in three games, Martinez could do with his side winning this important encounter.
Everton have had a torrid time with injuries since the festive period but there are signs that those worries are subsiding with the return to fitness of young Spanish winger Deulofeu and right back Seamus Coleman – the Irish international was certainly a huge miss in the recent Anfield derby. The Blues still have five injuries to deal with and none are due back for this midweek clash – although centre back Antolín Alcaraz should be back for the weekend after a break with muscle fatigue. Lukaku is another big miss for the Toffees after picking up an ankle injury against Liverpool. Oviedo (broken leg), Kone (knee) and Gibson (ACL) are all out until the end of the season.
On the other hand, Crystal Palace are in decent shape with just two injuries blighting their squad – both Jerome and Ward are out with minor impact injuries.
Crystal Palace have scored just 18 goals in the Premier League this season – the lowest of any side currently in the top flight. Cardiff and Norwich are the next lowest with 19 goals apiece. In comparison, Everton have scored 37 goals this season – the sixth highest in the league.
Everton are joint fifth in the league when it comes to clean sheets with 9 shutouts recorded. Palace aren’t doing so bad themselves with 7 clean sheets to their name already – the same as fourth placed Liverpool.
There are six Everton players on a 100% tackles success rate, those players are: Tim Howard, Nikica Jelavic (now at Hull City), Steven Naismith, Romelu Lukaku, Darron Gibson and Aiden McGeady.
Ross Barkley is seemingly the most industrious of the Everton midfielders in terms of ground duels with the local lad recording figures of 251 and 141 for total ground duels and ground duels won respectively.
James McCarthy has always been highly rated but his stock has risen and risen since he signed for Everton last summer. Martinez was really keen on the Ireland international following him to Goodison Park and the former Wigan starlet has taken to his new home with real confidence. Not only is McCarthy adept at keeping the ball but he’s also a very tenacious player – the midfielder is Everton’s main defensive shield ahead of the back four with the most tackles and most tackles won in the Everton squad – 71 and 57 respectively. McCarthy was one of Everton’s main performers in the last game against Palace despite Everton drawing 0-0 – the Irishman attempted and completed more passes in that game than in any other game he’s played in, with 84 passes attempted and 76 completed, a 90% pass accuracy. McCarthy could do with increasing his creativity but this isn’t his main role, so creating just one clear-cut chance is something that can be forgiven considering his input to Everton’s solid defence.
Chamakh has been an enigma this season – useless under Holloway, but decent under Pulis. Not only has the Moroccan been scoring a few goals but he’s been working hard for the Palace cause – the tall striker has entered into more ground duels than any other Crystal Palace player (226), which is excellent for an attacking player. As can be expected with Tony Pulis in charge, the strikers at Palace have been important in the air and Chamakh is no exception – with 299 aerial duels completed and 123 aerial duels won, making Chamakh Palace’s best player in the air. Chamakh is also doing okay on the goals front, the Moroccan attacker has five goals to his name including one in his latest outing against West Brom.
There should only be one outcome from this game and that should be an Everton win but Pulis has done pretty well so far with his football based on solidity and keeping clean sheets. Palace goalkeeper Speroni will be super important if Palace want anything from this game but I’m going for a 2-0 Toffees win.