Crystal Palace vs Everton preview: Premier League strugglers expecting to improve

The two sides meet at Selhurst Park tomorrow (Saturday) doing far worse than they would each have hoped

Crystal Palace vs Everton preview: Premier League strugglers expecting to improve
Crystal Palace vs Everton preview: Premier League strugglers expected to do better

Crystal Palace and Everton were two sides expected to perform well at the start of the season. 

Each made seemingly good signings, both led by their respective legendary former Netherlands international managers. 

Fast forward three months into the season and the pair meet tomorrow (Saturday) at Selhurst Park. Both have been woeful. Neither Dutchmen remain charge.

The Eagles, led into the campaign by Frank de Boer but now managed by Roy Hodgson, sit bottom of the Premier League with one win, a draw and nine defeats from their opening eleven games. Palace have been horrific from the start, much down to the apparent assumption that a side previously managed by Sam Allardyce could be turned into a prime Cruyffian-inspired team overnight. Defeats to Huddersfield Town and Swansea City in the opening three games dented any delusion that Cruyff-ball would be a success in south London. 

Everton started slightly better with a victory against Stoke City and a point at Manchester City but a fairly swift decline has dragged them down to 15th. Ronald Koeman was sacked a little under three weeks ago, failing in his expectations to threaten the top four following a summer in which the club spent over £100 million on the likes of Gylfi Sigurdsson, Wayne Rooney, Michael Keane and Davy Klaassen. The Europa League could have boosted Koeman's chances of being spared time but the Toffees failed to win a game in Group E, eventually being knocked out following last week's defeat to Lyon under the watch caretaker manager David Unsworth

Unsworth is a candidate to take the job on a full-time basis but his opening three games in charge have hardly been impressive. He has overseen the Toffees' exit from the EFL Cup, a comfortable 2-0 defeat at Leicester City and the compounding Europa League defeat in France. However, he eventually earned his first victory thanks to a dramatic comeback against Watford prior to the international break. 

The victory against Watford gives Everton a slight cushion as they travel to Selhurst. The result lifted them out of the bottom three which they currently sit just two points above. Their hosts are in a far worse predicament, however. Palace are six points from safety but their next eight games are certainly far less demanding than their previous eight. Both sides' troubles will make the contest fierce with quite a bit more at stake than both would probably have hoped. 

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Head to head

Everton have an edge over Palace in the head to head; they have beaten the Eagles on 18 occasions and lost 13 across 45 meetings. In fact, they are unbeaten at Selhurst in six visits, dating back to 1994. However, their 1-0 win at Palace ten months ago remains their latest victory on the road. 

It is at home that Everton have struggled against Palace, failing to beat them at Goodison Park since the Eagles were promoted in 2013. 

Team news

Hodgson is expecting to be without midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek due to the back injury he suffered while playing for England against Brazil in midweek. It is a shame for the midfielder who was awarded man of the match in the previous international, his full senior debut, against Germany although this is already the on-loan Chelsea man's third separate spell on the sidelines. 

Patrick van Aanholt and Chung-yong Lee are both unavailable due to hamstring injuries and outcast Jordon Mutch is out with a calf strain. 

Palace will be buoyed though by the return of Christian Benteke, who has missed the last two months with a knee ligament injury. The Belgian's return will mean Palace could return to their more familiar 4-3-3 with Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend flanking Benteke. 

Meanwhile, Everton have no fresh injury concerns. Oumar Niasse could continue his rise from the oblivion with another start. Former Palace man Yannick Bolasie has returned to training but is still not fit enough to feature following his long-term absence.