Everton gave us a timely reminder as to why we dedicate so much time and money to following this team with the kind of joyous, last-minute victory we haven’t witnessed for years at Watford last week.
You have to go back to 2017 to find the last time Everton conceded first and won, the last time they went 2-0 down away from home and won was in 2015. The limbs in the away end when Theo Walcott slotted home were fully justified.
It doesn’t quite make up for all the disappointments we have endured since, but it does allow us to put them well behind us and look forward to the future with optimism.
There is a real feeling that Carlo Ancelotti is beginning to build some momentum with this team, and it may yet result in a European place.
This year’s Premier League is so densely packed it means the Toffees are in contention for a top seven spot despite being frankly terrible for large parts of the campaign.
They go into Saturday’s game just four points behind fifth-placed Tottenham and can go sixth, albeit potentially temporarily, with a win.
There are definitely shades of ‘we can go top with a win at Villa’ about that last sentence, and Everton have a hard-earned reputation for messing things up just when progress in the table is in sight. But you’d hope that with Ancelotti in charge they have left those disappointments in the past and maintain the momentum gained with that win at Vicarage Road.
While I hate to tempt fate, this may a good time to play Crystal Palace, as they look to be on the slide.
They head to Goodison on a run of just one win in ten games, a Boxing Day victory over West Ham, and on the back of successive home defeats without scoring a goal.
Granted, one of the games on that run was a 2-2 draw at Manchester City, but that looks like the exception rather than the rule given it is just the third time in fifteen matches that they have scored more than once.
A lack of goals is most certainly a problem, with a league-low 22 scored so far and the over-reliance on Wilfried Zaha becoming increasingly stark.
Cenk Tosun was brought in to offer support and scored in that draw at City, but has promptly picked up a hamstring injury (and couldn’t have played at Goodison anyway due to the terms of his loan). The Eagles failed to add any more players to the squad last month, meaning the experienced Hodgson will once again have to make do with what he had.
That said, they are generally well organised at the back, with only three teams conceding fewer than their 29 so far. Their points tally of 30 has also put them within sight of safety (and to put this crazy league table in context, they can actually go level with Everton with a win.)
Even if they lose on Saturday, I expect them to pick up at least two wins from the next four games against Newcastle, Brighton, Watford and Bournemouth, which would put them on the brink of securing a seventh successive season in the top flight.
August 10, 2019 - Crystal Palace 0-0 Everton (match report)
It was a tepid start to the new campaign for both sides as they played out a turgid goalless draw at Selhurst Park back in August.
Watford (A) Won 3-2
Newcastle (H) Drew 2-2
West Ham (A) Drew 1-1
Brighton (H) Won 1-0
Sheffield Utd (H) Lost 1-0
Southampton(H) Lost 2-0
Man City (A) Drew 2-2
Arsenal (H) Drew 1-1
Derby (H - FA Cup third round) Lost 1-0
Fabian Delph is, of course, serving his one-match suspension for his red card in the Watford win, so it is likely to be Gylfi Sigurðsson in midfield again, alongside either Morgan Schneiderlin or Tom Davies.
Fellow midfielders André Gomes and Jean-Philippe Gbamin remain out, but Ancelotti is planning a friendly during the winter break to aid Gomes’ rapid recovery from his fractured dislocation to his ankle, with a return pencilled in for the trip to Arsenal on February 23.
Gbamin, absent since August, will be out for hopefully no more than eight more weeks after Ancelotti revealed on Friday the surgery on his thigh injury was a success.
What they said
Everton boss Carlo Ancelotti: “I expect a difficult game as is every game in the Premier League. Every team has its own quality, Crystal Palace have their own quality, a manager with lots of experience, players with a lot of quality.
“We have to do our 100 per cent, and with the support of our stadium, I think we can have three points.”
Crystal Palace boss Roy Hodgson: “Carlo has done very well since he came into the club, players are full of confidence that good results bring with it. It’s always a difficult game at Goodison Park but we’re ready for that.”
The form of both sides points towards a home victory, but this is an Everton side who can hold a 2-0 lead going into the 94th minute and still not win, so everything is possible.
However, with games against Arsenal and Chelsea waiting after the winter break, it is important to get a decent result here if they are to show their late European challenge is genuine.