For the first time in Premier League history, it could be argued that Crystal Palace head into a tie with Everton as the favourites for victory. The Eagles have shaken off their early season form and have climbed the table, as well as ensuring progression in the cups, and are now level on points with Roberto Martinez’s Toffees. Alan Pardew has certainly done a good job so far and a home win over Everton would suggest their form is no fluke – despite Everton’s troubles.
Meanwhile, the Everton camp is a much darker place having been dumped out of the FA Cup by West Ham and having to suffer the ignominy of Mirallas’ penalty controversy. A win here would buy Martinez a bit more time with the Everton supporters – a loss could break the camel’s back.
Alan Pardew has been fortunate so far with his squad coping well injury wise. The London side have just the one problem heading into this clash with Jonny Williams still suffering from a long standing groin strain.
Yannick Bolasie remains absent through African Cup of Nations involvement with the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mile Jedinak is also away with Australia for the Asian Cup.
Everton currently have a lengthy injury list with up to eight players missing from the squad this weekend – although there are a number of players who could make it through late fitness tests.
Kevin Mirallas (hamstring), Sylvain Distin (groin), James McCarthy (hamstring), Darren Gibson (knee) and Muhamed Besic (ankle) could all be back for the Saturday kick off. However, goalkeeper Tim Howard is out until February with a calf strain whilst Leon Osman and Steven Peinaar are without a return date following ankle and knee injuries respectively.
Christian Atsu is another player away on international duty with his involvement in the Ghana camp keeping him busy – not that anybody noticed.
Only one of the last eight fixtures has ended as a home win (2 draws, 5 away wins).
Everton have won none of their last six away games in the Premier League – losing the last five in a row.
Everton have lost just once in their last six visits to Selhurst Park (4W, 1D).
Alan Pardew and Roberto Martinez have met eight times in the Premier League with four wins apiece to their name.
Crystal Palace have recovered more points from losing positions than any other team in the Premier League – 14.
The Eagles have committed more fouls than any other team in England’s top flight with 299.
Dwight Gayle is certainly one of Palace’s brightest players when he’s on his day. Gayle certainly likes playing Everton’s city rivals, Liverpool, and is definitely a man for the occasional big game goal.
So far this season, the 25 year old has netted five goals in just 635 minutes of football – including one against Liverpool at Selhurst Park. Gayle has also posted an impressive 70% shooting accuracy which suggests he could do with taking a few more risks to ensure he grabs more goals – the goals scored to shooting accuracy doesn’t correlate.
Gayle has been surprisingly good in the air this term despite his slender frame. The winger has won 13/37 of his headed duels but has completed just 1/5 of his attempted take-ons – something which surprised me for two reasons: firstly, why so few take-ons and secondly, why is a pacey winger better in the air than he is at dribbling? Gayle could also do with creating more chances with just the seven created all season – with just one assist to go with them.
Gayle needs to find that next level quickly but he definitely still has something to give this Palace side – Pardew will hope his evolution takes place under his watch.
Despite his shaky start, most notably against Chelsea when his poor back heel gave Chelsea one of five goals that day, Muhamed Besic has emerged as one of Everton’s better players this campaign. The Bosnian, signed in the summer transfer window, has shown flashes of skill which tempted Everton owner Bill Kenwright to splash out £4m on him.
So far this term, Besic has passed the ball well with a passing accuracy of 88%. The tidy midfielder keeps the ball well and has also completed 25/36 of his attempted take-ons showing how he can keep possession in different types of situations. Operating in a deeper creative role, Besic has created just six chances but his task is to create attacking plays, not to execute them a la Kevin Mirallas or Ross Barkley. To help the defence, Besic could do with improving his tackling – although playing next to an energetic midfielder like James McCarthy could negate some of these deficiencies – as the World Cup star has won just 27/78 of his attempted tackles.
My prediction for this Saturday match is a 2-1 Palace simply because of Everton’s away day struggles. A draw could also be likely given how badly Everton need a result of some kind to stop the rot. However, I’m going with 2-1 and another Alan Pardew victory.