A home fixture against an out-of-form Palace is precisely the kind of assignment Everton fans will feel gives them the best chance to maintain their recent fine vein of form after a slowish start to the season. The Toffees have knocked off Fulham and Leicester in recent weeks, and looked strong in doing it.
Roy Hodgson’s men, for their part, have lost two on the bounce against Wolves and Bournemouth. Those losses have been characterised by a sense that the Eagles lack the spark to win games against the sides they’ll need to beat if they’re to avoid another relegation battle. They need to either find form in a hurry, or hope that Newcastle, Cardiff, and one other team stay as rotten as they have been for the first eight weeks of the campaign.
Everton vs Crystal Palace Prediction: Everton 2-0 Crystal Palace
Marco Silva’s arrival at Everton, while coming about six months later than both parties would have preferred, has been the cause of some optimism returning to a set of fans who’ve seen so many false dawns that they had mostly entered eternal hibernation. That said, six points from six games cast a shadow of doubt over the Everton revival. However, in the past few weeks, things have very much clicked for Everton while simultaneously grinding to a halt for Palace. There’s little reason to suspect that this process will be reversed this afternoon.
Our recommended tip: Sigurdsson to score
Icelandic attacking midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson was the beating heart of a Swansea side that often seemed to stay in the Premier League purely because of his well-timed passes and unerring knack of popping up with important goals. His first season at Everton was something of a washout, not least because successive managers insisted on using him out wide on the left. Since Silva arrived, and put him behind the striker where he belongs, Sigurdsson has been more productive – and has scored in his last two outings. Dafabet’s 12/5 (3.4) on him making it “his last three” is well worth a look.
With both sides having been Premier League fixtures for a few years now, it’s fair to say they’ve seen plenty of each other over that time, although not many of those fixtures stand out in the memory. For example, last time out at Goodison, the home side won 3-1 with goals from Sigurdsson, Oumar Niasse and Tom Davies. Luka Milivojevic grabbed a consolation from the penalty spot with seven minutes remaining in the game. However, unless you’re a fan of either side, the chances you remember that game are pretty minimal. Hopefully this outing will be more of a showpiece, as it’s been chosen as Sunday’s live televised match.
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Players to watch: Theo Walcott & Jordan Ayew
Walcott, for one reason or another, never consistently hit the heights that were expected of him at Arsenal when he moved there for a huge transfer fee while still not technically an adult. It didn’t help that Arsenal never played a three-man front line, the system to which he is so clearly suited as a pacey forward who likes to cut inside. At Everton, the pressure to deliver regular goals in a side gunning for the top honours is less of a factor, and he’s provided some of his most consistent performances with that burden off him.
Ayew is one to watch, although perhaps not for the reasons fans would like to hear. He’s yet to get on the scoresheet for the Eagles since arriving in the summer from Swansea, but it is clear that Wilfried Zaha needs someone to lighten the load of being the one who always pulls Palace over the finishing line in games. Ayew, an undeniable talent when on his game, would be an ideal candidate. All too often, though, “his” games are too few and much too far between. Zaha, and Roy Hodgson, need him to step up.