Last updated & checked: 10/08/2021
With roughly half of the Premier League on the “staggered” winter break this weekend, there are just four fixtures, with perhaps the standout match bringing together Everton and Crystal Palace. While the hosts are characterised as targeting the European chase from their current position of ninth, fourteenth-placed Palace are considered more to be focused on avoiding relegation. However, the sides are separated by just three points, and the Eagles would leapfrog their opponents were they to win here.
Victory will be a tough ask for the South Londoners, though, against a side with just two defeats since Carlo Ancelotti took the Goodison hot seat. The Italian legend was considered to be a strange fit for the blue half of Merseyside, but things have stabilised for the better since he took over the reins of the Toffees. With Palace winless in their last six league outings, Ancelotti’s men could take another big step towards competing at the business end of the table.
Everton vs Crystal Palace Prediction: Everton 2-1 Crystal Palace
With a significant level of investment in the summer, Everton fans were entitled to expect a side that could hold its own in the top half of the table, and they certainly had one. It’s just that it has taken a change of manager for that to actually happen – Ancelotti has not added any first-team signings in the January transfer window, but has better marshalled a collective that was going nowhere under Marco Silva. This fixture would have set alarm bells ringing on the blue side of Stanley Park just two months ago. Now it’s hard to see anything other than a home win.
Our recommended tip: Everton/Everton HT/FT
In place of revolutionising the way Everton play, the new regime under Ancelotti has focused on continuity and consistency, and there are few changes in personnel and tactics from game to game. This has led to a more fluent team, much more comfortable taking the front foot than any Toffees side has been in several years. There’s a long way to go before they’re fit to mix with the Premier League’s elite, but a home game against a faltering Palace should be one where three points are there for the taking. At NetBet, you can get 9/2 on the hosts taking a lead into half time and winning overall.
This match is a reverse of the opening weekend of the season, and no-one won when these sides kicked off 2019/20 at Selhurst Park – including the viewer. The sides battled out a 0-0 draw, which was notably short on goalmouth action. Excitement only briefly threatened to flourish when the Toffees’ Morgan Schneiderlin saw a second yellow card was sent off with a quarter of an hour to go, but in the end the sides both settled for an opening-day point.
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Players to watch: Dominic Calvert-Lewin & Jordan Ayew
Everton have for some time now looked like a side in need of a 20-goals-per-season striker, and have spent hundreds of millions of pounds looking for one. However, their recent run of positive form has been spearheaded by a 22-year-old they grabbed from Sheffield United for £1.5 million. Calvert-Lewin may never be the most natural goalscorer, but he’s an exceptionally hard worker and, given his chance by Ancelotti, is showing what can be done with the right support around him.
Since his debut for Marseille ten years ago, African football experts have been of the opinion that Jordan Ayew could play at the very top. Time may be running out for that – with all due respect to Palace – but the Ghanaian international is Palace’s top scorer this season and is the ideal winger in a Roy Hodgson side. Ayew will contribute a great deal in both attack and defence, and his dribbling style of play is likely to win his side some free-kicks, from which the Eagles present a permanent attacking threat.