Having finally ended their excruciatingly long wait to end their winless streak in the Premier League, Crystal Palace will be hoping to end any lingering doubts over their safety by seeing off Everton and reaching the 40-point mark.
While good results have been achieved the FA Cup, a sequence of 14 league matches without a win was clearly having an effect on all of the Palace players, with confidence appearing increasingly thin on the ground as positive results continued to elude them and they nosedived down the table into a position of insecurity. Six straight home defeats had them demoralised, so the relief around Selhurst Park was clear for all to see as they edged to victory over Norwich City on Saturday.
It was a tight game for long spells as nerves evidently played a part, but the deciding factor on the day was the greater attacking quality that the Eagles possess, and that was shown by Jason Puncheon’s superb curling shot to win it. It was his first goal of what has been an injury-disrupted season for the attacking midfielder, but his presence is key in the Palace side as he provides that much-needed source of creativity and finesse, complimenting the pace the team has in wide areas.
This has been a strange Premier League season in a number of ways, but few teams have been more shrouded in mystery than Everton, whose level of underachievement continues to beggar belief. They now lie in a measly 14th place, and will drop behind Palace were they to lose this one, so it is little wonder that with a squad as talented as the one they have at present, that some supporters are becoming more than a trifle restless. Manager Roberto Martinez needs to turn results around quickly.
There was a clear show of discontent in the away end at Watford on Saturday as another largely lukewarm display led to a 1-1 draw, with one banner calling for Martinez to leave. On the field, it was frustrating to see defensive frailties exposed again as they conceded from a cheap corner moments after going ahead themselves on the stroke of half-time. What threat they did have mainly came from Aaron Lennon, whose form is one of the few positives for the Merseyside club to draw on.
James McArthur and Marouane Chamakh are still out for Crystal Palace, who are waiting on the fitness of Emmanuel Adebayor.
The visitors are set to be without Phil Jagielka after he was forced off at Watford, so Ramiro Funes Mori will be recalled to the centre of defence. Elsewhere, Leon Osman may be contention after recovering from an injury.
Last Meeting: Everton ended a nine-match losing streak as an early goal from Romelu Lukaku secured a narrow victory in January 2015. Lukaku found the net in only the second minute as he was on hand to head home after goalkeeper Julian Speroni had parried a cross from Steven Naismith, and although Palace came close through Dwight Gayle and Marouane Chamakh, they did not often threaten a leveller.