The constant moving of fixtures to accommodate live TV schedules has long been a nuisance for the match-going football fan. But the latest innovation to switch games to a Friday night has sparked excitement amongst Evertonians.
Goodison Park under lights is always a special occasion, so Sky TV’s decision to move the game against Crystal Palace has given a pretty ordinary fixture a significant uplift - and allowed the fans to organise a night on the ale around the match.
It is an important game for the players too as they seek to bounce back from two disappointing back-to-back results.
The EFL Cup defeat to Norwich could partially be blamed on too many changes highlighting a lack of squad depth. There can few excuses for the Bournemouth defeat though, except perhaps a reality check as to the true ambitions for the team this season and a few awkward questions.
Can the team learn to cope when Gareth Barry and Romelu Lukaku have a bad day? Do the squad players offer anything positive? And what on earth is going on with Ross Barkley? Just a few of the questions for Ronald Koeman to ponder over the past week.
Everton’s best start to a campaign for 38 years sent expectations through the roof. But last Saturday’s game at the Vitality Stadium brought everyone crashing down to earth with an uncomfortable bump.
Everton’s hopes for the season perhaps lie between those two extremes. But that makes this Palace game no less important given the fixtures that lie ahead.
A trip to the Etihad Stadium lies in wait immediately after the international break before the Toffees head to Chelsea three weeks later.
Koeman has experienced his first bump in the road as Everton manager. It’s time for him – and the team – to show what they’re made of.
Crystal Palace head north full of confidence after their dramatic 3-2 comeback win at Sunderland last weekend.
That victory was Palace’s third in a row having won just three of their previous 25 games before then. Indeed the Eagles’ haul of 10 points from their last four games is just one fewer than what they collected in their previous 21 matches in 2016.
To put it bluntly, this is the worst time to play Crystal Palace all year.
In fact Alan Pardew’s side have had something of a hold over the blues since their promotion back to the top flight in 2013.
Everton have won just one of their six meetings since then – a 1-0 victory at Selhurst Park in early 2015. At Goodison the Toffees have suffered two 3-2 defeats, the first of which pretty much ended any hopes of qualifying for the Champions League in 2014. In last season’s meeting Everton needed a late Romelu Lukaku strike to salvage a 1-1 draw after Scott Dann’s headed opener.
Palace could draw level with Everton with victory a Goodison Park, a remarkable turnaround if you consider Pardew was under pressure after losing their opening two matches.
The main dangerman will again be Christian Benteke who, freed from his difficult spell at Liverpool, looks much more at home in Palace’s more direct system.
Koeman has confirmed that striker Lukaku will play despite concerns over a lingering toe injury.
Defender Leighton Baines will definitely miss out though as he continues to nurse a hamstring problem. Bryan Oviedo is likely to continue to deputise.
James McCarthy and Darron Gibson also miss out though they hope to return to training soon following hamstring injuries of their own.
Everton have a strangely poor record against Palace in recent years, without a home victory against them since 2005.
And after a rocky start they seem to be hitting form at just the wrong time as far as Everton are concerned, meaning this has all the makings of a tricky encounter.
My confidence in the team has taken a knock over the past week and brought back a few bad memories from last season.
You then have to throw in the Mark Clattenberg factor. Every Evertonian’s least favourite referee has presided over four successive Everton defeats, with the blues losing six of the last eight games he has taken charge of.
For those reasons I’m wary of tipping the side to win, instead foreseeing an entertaining 2-2 draw to kick off everyone’s weekend.
Predicted starting XI: Stekelenberg, Oviedo, Jagielka, Williams, Coleman, Barry, Gueye, Mirallas, Barkley, Bolasie, Lukaku.