Everton continued their Jekyll and Hyde routine last weekend when they beat the brakes off Manchester United. Bizarrely, the club have had far more trouble with teams of Crystal Palace’s ilk than they have the top six (this season, anyway)...and now Marco Silva is going to have to change his winning lineup.
Richarlison is a major doubt due to an injury picked up on Sunday, and his natural replacement, Theo Walcott, is sick. Who comes in?
Tactics and Formation
Marco Silva has proven that if a team try to play expansive, attacking football against Everton, it will probably end in annihilation — just ask Arsenal, Chelsea, West Ham United, and Manchester United.
Well, Silva will most certainly not see that kind of opponent this weekend. In the past two months, Crystal Palace has been out-possessed in matches against Burnley, Huddersfield Town, and Newcastle United. The possession stats against Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City, and Arsenal in that period? Don’t even ask.
Silva’s preferred attacking tactics essentially consist of “get the ball wide and get it up the field as quickly as possible,” and Crystal Palace is sure to take that option away from the Toffees. Can Everton find its playmakers — one of whom we expect to be back in the lineup after a long spell on the bench — in ways that lead to quality chances?
Starters (likelihood of starting rated out of 10)
Jordan Pickford - 10/10
Lucas Digne - 10/10
Kurt Zouma - 10/10
Michael Keane - 10/10
The return of the Zouma/Keane pairing after the bizarre decision to start Phil Jagielka against Fulham led to yet another clean sheet at Goodison Park. Since March 1, Everton has conceded three goals when both Zouma and Keane are on the pitch — all in a 20 minute span in the second half against Newcastle United.
Since that capitulation, the pair have gone 276 minutes without conceding a goal. Can somebody please get Maurizio Sarri on the line?
Seamus Coleman - 10/10
Morgan Schneiderlin - 8/10
The French midfielder was...pretty much fine against Manchester United. He doesn’t cover as much ground as Andre Gomes, nor can he dribble as skillfully, but Schneiderlin did well in possession and his defensive positioning was as strong as always.
We think that performance will keep him in the lineup against Palace. His passing ability from the deep areas of midfield is better than that of either Tom Davies or James McCarthy, and that could wind up being important against what will surely be a deep block from Roy Hodgson’s side.
The only other option we think is realistic is the inclusion of Tom Davies up alongside Gylfi Sigurdsson, with Gana playing as a lone holding midfielder at the base of the triangle.
Idrissa Gueye - 10/10
Gylfi Sigurdsson - 10/10
In matches against defensive-minded opponents, Everton has generally either found ways to get Gylfi involved and won, or failed to do so and lost. The Icelander — especially if Richarlison is absent — must have a substantial impact on the match if the Toffees are to break down Crystal Palace.
Ademola Lookman - 6/10
We were quite upset when after a few solid performances in January, Ade found himself once again on the bench. It must be said though, that Bernard’s performance in recent weeks has been so good that there’s really no obvious path back into the starting XI for him when everyone is fully healthy.
Lucky for him, Richarlison and Theo Walcott are both doubts ahead of this match, making it relatively likely that he gets a start. If both those players do miss out, Silva’s only other real option would be shuttling Dominic Calvert-Lewin out wide left and bringing Cenk Tosun in at central striker. That seems the decidedly less likely option though.
Bernard - 10/10
Dominic Calvert-Lewin - 10/10
With Richarlison and Walcott doubtful, Bernard and Calvert-Lewin are both virtual locks to start.
At a minimum, Everton need to beat Crystal Palace and Burnley both to have any chance at the Europa League. That starts at Selhurst Park tomorrow, no matter who is in the team.