The second international break of the season was made a little more bearable thanks to Everton’s fine victory at Leicester last time out, sending us all away in a good mood.
It’s still been 15 days of tedium between matches, but it was nice to have a bit of positivity in the air after we were left stewing over a a frustrating home draw against Huddersfield before the previous break.
The win at the King Power was comfortably Everton’s best performance of the season and perhaps a sign the side is starting to gel.
Certainly the presence of Bernard has bolstered the side’s attacking threat. The diminutive Brazilian has all the attributes to be a Goodison hero, the sort of player who sparks a ripple of excitement whenever he gets the ball.
There’s early signs of a blossoming relationship with fellow Brazilian Richarlison while Gylfi Sigurdsson and Theo Walcott complete a formidable front four of guile, skill, pace and trickery.
The failure to keep a clean sheet is again a concern - the goal we conceded was direct from our own corner. But there are at least signs of a promising partnership between Michael Keane and Kurt Zouma and they should be kept together for now, despite the imminent return of Yerry Mina. Jonjoe Kenny is far from the finished article but has definite potential while Lucas Digne has proven a classy addition and a worthy successor to Leighton Baines.
The victory made it back-to-back wins in the league and went some way towards making up for that disastrous result in the Carabao Cup against Southampton. There was definitely a sense of simmering anger after that result so it was vital the team bounced back quickly.
Lets hope any momentum gained from that win hasn’t been snuffed out by the long break between games.
A further boost for The Toffees was the news that Yerry Mina, Andre Gomes, James McCarthy, Beni Baningime and Phil Jagielka all came through a 60 minute training game at Finch Farm, offering Silva some timely options.
I would be surprised if any of the quintet start this weekend, but they have a decent chance of making the bench and will provide competition for places as we embark on a tricky run of fixtures in the next few weeks.
I’m not sure Roy Hodgson quite got the credit he deserved when keeping Crystal Palace up last season. The Eagles looked dead and buried when he took over in September following the disastrous appointment of Frank de Boer.
They had already lost their first four games before Hodgson arrived, with the former England boss then overseeing a further three defeats - without even scoring a goal.
No Premier League team has survived after losing their first seven games, but Palace not only stayed up but ended up finishing 11th.
Their greatest strength however, also seems to be their greatest weakness. Wilfried Zaha has been a talisman for the Eagles in recent seasons, so much so that the side have failed to win without him in the side since September 2016.
Reports therefore that the forward picked up an injury while on international duty with Ivory Coast will be greeted with despair by Eagles supporters.
The south London club have endured a mixed campaign so far, with their opening day win at Fulham followed up by three successive defeats. They have won just once in the league since then, courtesy of a fine Zaha strike at Huddersfield, to sit 14th in the table, three places and five points behind the Toffees.
Despite their mixed form they can take heart from their impressive recent record at Goodison Park. Everton’s 3-1 win in February was their first home win over Palace since they were promoted back to the Premier League in 2013. Indeed one of their most significant wins came in April 2014 when a shock 3-2 victory boosted their hopes of survival and dealt a severe blow to Everton’s ultimately futile attempts to finish in the top four.
Marco Silva has confirmed Andre Gomes and Yerry Mina could make their long awaited debuts after returning to full training.
However, Idrissa Gueye is to be assessed after suffering an ankle injury on international duty with Senegal.
Beni Baningime, James McCarthy and Phil Jagielka are unlikely to feature from the start but could be named on the bench.
Predicted starting XI
The Leicester result and, perhaps more importantly, performance suggested things are finally beginning to click so it would be a signifiant setback if the Toffees were stumble to yet another disappointing home result.
With some tough away fixtures coming up there is even greater importance on picking up points at Goodison Park.
But given Everton have won their last two league games, Palace have lost their last two league games, we know what’s coming, right?