Yannick Bolasie faces his old club this Friday night as Everton host resurgent Crystal Palace at Goodison Park. New boss Ronald Koeman had guided the Toffees to an unbeaten start to their league campaign, but they came unstuck last week in a disappointing defeat at Bournemouth. Eyebrows were raised when Bolasie swapped south London for Merseyside for the princely sum of £30 million but he has been in fettle so far this term.
Belgian international Romelu Lukaku has felt the benefit, and he will want to get back on the scoresheet after drawing a blank last week. Despite their first league defeat of the season, Everton are still handily positioned in fifth and could catapult themselves into second with a win in the weekend’s first Premier League game.
Palace have had a wretched 2016, but from nowhere have pieced together three straight league wins. Their front four of Andros Townsend, Jason Puncheon, Wilfried Zaha and Christian Benteke is dynamic and exciting. Alan Pardew’s side have struggled to find a reliable goalscorer for a few seasons, and Benteke might be just the man. He was too static to be a success under Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool, but Selhurst Park seems the ideal home for him. Unusually, they play with two wingers who start on their ‘correct’ side (a right-footer on the right and left-footer on the left) and look to hit Benteke early with crosses.
Everton went down 1-0 at Bournemouth last time out courtesy of Junior Stanislas’ thumping finish. Prior to that however, they were one of the division’s form teams beating Middlesbrough, Sunderland and Stoke while scoring seven goals in the process. Given the coverage of both team’s at the start of the season, it is remarkable to think that Palace could go level with Koeman’s side with a victory this evening. The Eagles came from 2-0 down to pinch three points at Sunderland last week, a result that followed a convincing home triumph over Stoke and a Zaha inspired win away at Middlesbrough.
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Injuries and Suspensions
There are concerns over Lukaku’s toe injury but the former Chelsea man is expected to make it. Leighton Baines is still absent due to a hamstring injury while James McCarthy remains on the sidelines. Palace welcome back Zaha who missed last weekend’s trip to Sunderland with a hamstring injury, but Jonathan Benteke could be out for months after suffering a knee injury.
Everton dropping points at Bournemouth was something of a coupon buster, but Koeman has them in pretty good shape. The Dutchman seems to have a created a more demanding atmosphere within the club following the apparently lax ways of Roberto Martinez. The Blues look better organised without the ball; Ashley Williams is a steady presence at the back, while Idrissa Gueye in midfield has been a revelation.
Palace are bang in form, and are the sort of outfit that can benefit from playing away from home due to the counter-attacking opportunities that affords. Moreover, as their 4-1 win against Stoke demonstrated, Pardew’s men are a potent threat from set pieces. However, Everton are a better balanced side than in recent seasons and have better quality in the last third. Therefore, we’re plumping for a home win.
Verdict: Home Win
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