Fresh off earning their first League Cup semi final appearance since 2008, Everton look to take a big step towards achieving their European ambitions against Crystal Palace.
Its been feast or famine type season for the South Londoners. Alan Pardew's club have the fewest draws in the league through 14 games, winning seven and losing six. In recent weeks they drifted between beating a resurgent Liverpool in Anfield, losing to a possibly relegation bound Sunderland at home and then back again to an absolute smashing of Newcastle.
Palace has not been especially good at maintaining possession this year. They are just 15th in the Premier League in that category at a shade over 47%. Everton should be able to take the time to patiently build their attacks. However the Eagles will be a decided danger from the air (no pun intended). No one sends in more crosses than Crystal Palace and Everton is dead last in the league in aerial challenges won. If there was ever a game to get centre forward Connor Wickham his first Palace goal, this is it.
After what seems like months of tentative optimism, Leighton Baines finally returned to the pitch Tuesday against Middlesborough. With 17 minutes and his yellow card under his belt, Baines looks ready to return to regular duty.
It may not have come too soon, as the unfortunate injury to Tyias Browning has put further strains on Everton's already depleted back field depth. Everton may very well be short James McCarthy as well, who is still nursing the knock picked up against Bournemouth. He will likely be a game day decision.
The Last Word
Offensively Everton has been on something of tear since finishing the difficult early part of their schedule. The Toffees have scored 14 goals in the past four league matches. Palace however, has been a tough nut to crack, allowing the fifth fewest goals in the Premier League this campaign. Expect this to be a nervy affair.
That said, Everton is unbeaten against the middle tier thus far, taking nine points from games against Liverpool, West Ham, West Brom, Watford and Southampton. They will need that trend to continue if they have any hopes of European football next year.
Predicted Starting XI: Howard; Coleman, Stones, Funes Mori, Galloway; Barry, Cleverley; Deulofeu, Barkley, Kone; Lukaku