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Everton at Crystal Palace: The Opposition View

We spoke to Dan from Eagles blog HLTCO ahead of Saturday’s clash

Everton FC v Crystal Palace - Premier League
Dominic Calvert-Lewin put Everton ahead in their 2-0 home win against Palace in October
Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Everton’s penultimate away game of 2018/19 sees them visit Crystal Palace on Saturday.

The Blues go to Selhurst Park, where they have not lost since 1994, looking to build on their 4-0 thumping of Manchester United, knowing a win could see them move back into seventh place in the Premier League.

Palace, 12th, secured survival with an impressive 3-2 win at Arsenal on Easter Sunday, and will want revenge on the Toffees, who scored two late goals to beat them 2-0 at Goodison Park in October’s reverse fixture.

But while Palace’s away form is the sixth-best in the league, with eight victories from 18 matches, only Huddersfield Town have a worse home record than Roy Hodgson’s side.

Prior to Saturday’s match, RBM spoke to Dan, from Palace blog HLTCO:

RBM: Firstly, Palace are definitely safe with three games left. Overall, are you satisfied with their season?

Dan: On the face of things, it’s bordering on impossible to moan about Palace’s season with three games left to play.

The only gripe I and the vast majority of our supporters have about how the campaign has panned out is our home record. We’ve picked up just 16 of our 42 points at Selhurst, which is both baffling and extremely frustrating for the thousands who turn up week after week.

Arsenal FC v Crystal Palace - Premier League
Palace sealed survival with victory at the Emirates on Sunday
Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images

RBM: Palace forward Wilfried Zaha, 26, spoke recently about his desire to play Champions League football. Is it imperative that he stays at Selhurst Park this summer, or would you sell him for a certain fee?

Dan: We’d all dearly love to keep hold of Zaha for the rest of his career but in reality, most of our fans are well aware that he may well look to move on this summer if the right opportunity presents itself.

We do know that Wilf will never ‘force’ his way out of the club against the board’s wishes and at the moment it looks likely that, if he is to leave, it will be abroad rather than domestic, but the summer window promises to be a long and frustrating one for everyone associated with Palace.

RBM: Meanwhile, Everton are one of the clubs to have been linked with Palace’s impressive young right-back, Aaron Wan-Bissaka. How would you rate the chances of this happening this summer?

Dan: Without wanting to sound disrespectful to Everton, the performances Wan-Bissaka has put in from the moment he made it into the first-team towards the back end of last season suggest that, if he is to leave SE25 this summer, it’ll be for a club participating in the Champions League; he really is that good.

Co-owner Steve Parish and the club directors would be looking for upwards of £60 million at the least and with a long-term contract signed relatively recently, it will have to be something mind-blowing to force our hand.

AFC Bournemouth v Crystal Palace - Premier League
Wan-Bissaka (left) and Zaha (centre) are arguably Palace’s two best players
Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

RBM: What other business should Palace do this summer to build on this campaign?

Dan: Ideally, we’ll look for a striker or two at the very least over the course of the summer. Christian Benteke scored against Arsenal but it could well prove to be a flash in the pan. With the likes of Connor Wickham and Alexander Sørloth nowhere near regular first-team contention and Michy Batshuayi heading back to Chelsea, it feels essential that fresh faces arrive.

RBM: Given Palace’s contrasting home and away form, do you think Everton have a better chance of winning this game than if it was at Goodison Park?

Dan: As I said earlier, our home form really has been abysmal and while it’s difficult to know exactly why that’s the case, it feels as though we struggle against sides who come to Selhurst and camp on the edge of their box looking to grind out a result rather than attempting to play free-flowing stuff.

We as a side thrive on space to exploit on the break; deny us that and you have every chance of heading back up to the North West with a positive result.

Crystal Palace v Everton - Premier League
Palace and Everton drew 2-2 at Selhurst Park last season
Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images

RBM: How do you expect Palace to set up on Saturday?

Dan: We will almost certainly set up in a 4-5-1 with Benteke or Batshuayi leading the line, flanked by Zaha and Andros Townsend on either flank.

Personally, I feel it’s a tad too predictable from week to week and on Sunday against Arsenal, a change of tactics worked wonders but Hodgson is a creature of habit and as such, is likely to revert to type on home soil.

RBM: Zaha aside, who else do you think could cause Everton the most problems?

Dan: When our midfield is properly balanced, we can cause problems for sides all over the park but it’s not that regular an occurrence.

I personally like to see both Max Meyer and Cheikhou Kouyaté incorporated into the midfield five as both men are very useful with the ball at their feet. When they’re on the pitch, it gives up a bit of variance from the usual Zaha/Townsend wide dynamic.

RBM: Finally, what’s your prediction for Saturday’s game?

Dan: It’s extremely difficult to say for sure with Palace at Selhurst this season but I’ll go for an entertaining draw. 2-2.

Our thanks to Dan for his time.