Everton return from the international break on Monday when they welcome Crystal Palace to Goodison Park.
The Blues have lost their last two Premier League games, and have a particularly wretched home record this term, but remain right in the thick of the race for European qualification.
Going into this weekend’s games, Carlo Ancelotti’s men sit eighth on 46 points, while Roy Hodgson’s Palace are 12th with 37 points and are surely safe from relegation now.
The Eagles have not beaten Everton home or away since September 2014, and lost the reverse fixture 2-1 at Selhurst Park in the early weeks of the season.
Ahead of Monday’s game, we spoke to Jay from Palace site The Eagles Beak:
RBM: Firstly, with Palace comfortably in mid-table, how would you assess their season so far?
Jay: A real mix and still a side that you just do not know what you are going to get week in, week out. On one hand, we get thumped by Liverpool when everything they hit goes in and on the other, we beat Manchester United at Old Trafford for the second season in succession.
Having said that, we are on the brink of a top ten finish if we can continue picking up points consistently until the end of the season but let’s face it, it has been a difficult season for everyone without fans in grounds.
Now we are looking ahead rather than behind us, hopefully we can look forward to getting back to some sort of normality next season when players and fans can celebrate goals together again.
RBM: With Palace almost certainly safe and probably unlikely to qualify for Europe, what are your hopes for the rest of their Premier League campaign?
Jay: A top ten finish, but we have a tough run of games right the way through to the end of the season.
Our best finish in the Premier League has been tenth under Alan Pardew and that should be our aim now. It is certainly not out of reach with how the results across the Premier League have been this season.
RBM: Roy Hodgson’s contract as Palace manager expires at the end of the season. Would you keep him?
Jay: With the uncertainty that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to everything, let alone football, it may well be a sensible approach to give him a one-year deal to see us through to the summer of 2022 where we can perhaps re-evaluate.
Having said that, we have a large number of players out of contract this summer (more than you would believe) and, while it is odd how the club have allowed that to happen, it may just be the right time for a new man to come in and start a rebuild.
Hodgson [73 years old] is not getting any younger, but he has done a fantastic job since coming in, providing stability at a point when the club really needed it.
RBM: If Hodgson were to leave, is there anyone who stands out to you as an obvious, realistic replacement?
Jay: This is the big question, particularly seeing as how we have never looked under threat of a return to the Championship under Hodgson and it almost feels insulting to think of life at the club without him in charge.
Having said that, the obvious choice based on the club’s approach with managers since promotion would be Sean Dyche - he really is from the school of [former Palace managers] Ian Holloway, Sam Allardyce, Tony Pulis, Pardew and Hodgson.
However, my personal view is quite different and while we had our fingers burnt with Frank de Boer, the thought of giving Steven Gerrard a chance in the Premier League after his initial success at Rangers would be an attractive one. He is destined for Liverpool, for sure, but why not offer him a way into the Premier League while he continues to cut his teeth?
Other names worthy of consideration would be Frank Lampard, Eddie Howe and Rafael Benitez.
RBM: Palace also have more than ten players whose deals run out in June. Do you expect, and would you like to see, a squad overhaul this summer?
Jay: The time is right, hence why I suggested a change of manager would work well with a rebuild on the cards. It is no secret that Palace’s starting line-up most weeks of this past couple of seasons have had the highest average age - you just know the media love a stat like that and we are bored of hearing it.
The additions of Eberechi Eze and Nathan Ferguson in recent windows are real suggestions that the club are actively looking to address that issue, but Palace have always been a club that have preferred bringing in experienced players at the top level, hence why we are in the position we are in now.
It has not been a bad way of approaching a lengthy stint in the Premier League and has served us well to date.
RBM: Where do Palace most need to strengthen this summer?
Jay: It depends who ends up being retained from the long list of out-of-contract players, as I’m sure there will be two or three that end up staying, but we do need to look at adding some youth in central defence and midfield.
We have had real problems at the back, which has seen Cheikhou Kouyate move back there from midfield and do a wonderful job (although he plays there for Senegal). While that may be his position going forward, Gary Cahill and Scott Dann are getting on and James Tomkins is ridiculously injury-prone, even if he is great for us when he plays.
RBM: How do you expect Palace to set up on Monday?
Jay: I don’t think there will be any surprises and playing away from home often works better for us with our pace on the break.
As a result, I expect us to line up like we did in the home victory against West Brom with fingers crossed for players out on international duty. It will be over three weeks since Palace played that game by the time we travel to Goodison, which seems crazy at this stage of the season.
Palace line-up vs West Brom: (4-4-2) Guaita; van Aanholt, Cahill, Kouyate, Ward; Eze, Riedewald, Milivojevic, Ayew; Zaha, Benteke.
RBM: Which of Palace’s players do you think can cause Everton the most problems?
Jay: Christian Benteke has been in good form of late which has been really pleasing, so I expect him to cause problems.
Wilfried Zaha had a quiet return after injury, so I’m fully expecting a good game from him in this one as it’s not often he has an off-game.
RBM: Finally, what’s your prediction for Monday’s game?
Jay: It seems so long since Palace last played, along with the fact it has been hard enough to predict what we are going to do from week to week, so a prediction is pretty difficult.
As unpredictable as we are, I am going to go for a 2-2 draw.
Our thanks to Jay for his time.