Two winning teams meet on Saturday in an encounter that is appealing at face value. Both Everton and Crystal Palace have won their two opening games of this Premier League season but points will be dropped when they face each other at Selhurst Park.
Ahead of travelling to London, Carlo Ancelotti, the Everton manager, spoke to the media and addressed a range of issues including the form of Jordan Pickford, Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s goalscoring run and coming up against another team having a good start.
Crystal Palace’s form
Roy Hodgson’s side have beaten Southampton and Manchester United in their first two games of the league season with Wilfried Zaha particularly impressive in the win at Old Trafford. Following a poor end to last season, which saw them not win any of their last five matches and finish in 14th place, Palace have started this campaign impressively.
“Hodgson is a fantastic manager who knows the Premier League and the characteristics of his players,” Ancelotti said. “He’s built a strong, well-organised team and uses the character of his players. We have a good test tomorrow. Palace, as us, have started really well. They played a fantastic game against Manchester United.”
Pickford’s midweek errors
As well as starting the Premier League season in good fashion, Everton have also advanced to the fourth round of the League Cup, in which they will face West Ham United next mid-week. However, in the third round 5-2 victory against Fleetwood Town, Pickford was at fault for both of the goals that Everton conceded. Thus putting himself under the spotlight for scrutiny once more.
“There is a lot of focus on him but, I have to be honest, he started really well and did a fantastic match against Tottenham,” Ancelotti answered. “I am not really focused on him, like you. He is a great goalkeeper.” There has been speculation in recent days that Everton are looking at bringing in United’s third choice goalkeeper Sergio Romero to compete with Pickford for the first-team spot, but Ancelotti confirmed that the club ‘are not looking for this’ at the moment.
Calvert-Lewin’s goalscoring run
Also discussed was the goalscoring form of Calvert-Lewin, who scored his first professional hat-trick in the 5-2 win against West Bromwich Albion last weekend. That was in addition to the goal he scored against Tottenham Hotspur in the opening round of fixtures.
“The player is motivated to improve. We are trying to help him. Most of the job he already did because he’s a really good player. He has a possibility to improve his matches, his quality. But he has the quality and where he can improve is in consistency.”
The manager did confirm that the 23-year-old 'had a little problem with his hamstring in the game in midweek but he is OK and will play [against Palace]'. Everton are still without centre-half duo Mason Holgate and Jarrad Branthwaite but ‘the others are all fit and available’.
Nkounkou’s promising start
There has been much talk of new-signings James Rodriguez, Allan and Abdoulaye Doucoure, who have all started the two league games, but the arrival of Niels Nkounkou is another good piece of business by Everton. The 19-year-old was brought in from Marseille as a development player in the summer but has played in the two League Cup games and settled in well to the left side of Everton’s defence.
“He did well [against Fleetwood],” Ancelotti said. “ He has surprised most of the people because most of the people didn't know him. The next step will be to have a test in the Premier League games. Next Wednesday, we play against a Premier League team [West Ham in the League Cup] so that could be a good test for him."