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    Everton v Crystal Palace Preview


    By Scott Hunt
    @scotthunt92

    At the start of the season, few would have picked out a clash between Everton and Crystal Palace as a battle for European places. But, such is the form of the respective clubs, that is exactly what the Monday night match will be with both sides looking to steal a march heading into the packed Christmas programme.

    Free-scoring Everton are unbeaten in their last four league games, hitting 14 goals in the process, but will want to seal a victory after conceding a late equaliser at Bournemouth last weekend. Palace found their shooting boots last time out, smashing five past Newcastle, and sit seventh in the table – one point and two places above the Toffees.

    While Everton threw away all three points last weekend, Palace are the only Premier League side yet to concede any points from winning positions. They will also be keen to build on their superb away form. Only Arsenal have amassed more points on the road than Palace since Alan Pardew took charge in January.

    In that time, Palace haven’t drawn a single away league game and Pardew insists they will keep pushing for wins and will head to Goodison with the aim of taking all three points – despite believing Everton are capable of challenging for the Champions League.

    “Our aim is to go to Everton and win,” Pardew told his pre-match press conference.

    Six or seven draws at the end of the season can jump you up two or three places, but our focus is always on winning.

    “Everton are a dark horse for Europe. Even for the Champions League, I'd say.

    “They're a team that we're competing with ourselves. It's an opportunity to get a result and stay above them.”

    Palace can rely on a strong recent record against Everton, having lost just one of their last four meetings and have won four of their last six Premier League clashes. But the fixture list has been kind to Roberto Martinez’s side as they are unbeaten in their last 15 matches played on a Monday.

    Everton have in their ranks one of the most in-form strikers in the league in Romelu Lukaku, who has scored eight goals in his last eight league outings. The Belgian also scored in both meetings last season and Pardew is well aware of the danger he poses.

    “He's really coming into his own and you can see for the next 5-10 years he'll be a big player in the world game.

    “Him reaching 50 goals is some achievement when you think of the players that have played in the PL.”


    Key Men

    While Lukaku’s exploits have deservedly grabbed the headlines, he has relied on superb service from the other attacking players in the side. Ross Barkley has excelled but the form of Gerard Deulofeu has really caught the eye in recent weeks. The summer acquisition from Barcelona is a raw and exciting talent, capable of dribbling past an opponent at will and delivering a telling final ball. His performance in the Capital One Cup quarter-final win over Middlesbrough was instrumental in their progression to the semis and Palace will need to keep him quiet on Monday.

    Yannick Bolasie has hit form in recent weeks and chipped in with two goals last weekend. Much onus will be on him again this time with Palace strewn of a number of other attacking options. Pardew will want his explosive forward player to test the vulnerable left side of Everton’s defence, where the inexperienced Ramiro Funes Mori and Brendan Galloway continue in the absence of England pairing Phil Jagielka and Leighton Baines. 


    Team News

    Everton are still without Jagielka and Baines, though the left back is nearing a first team return. James McCarthy is also a doubt after picking up an injury against Bournemouth and will be assessed over the weekend. Tom Cleverley is expected to feature again as he continues his comeback from injury.

    Palace are without two of their exciting wide players as Wilfried Zaha misses out through suspension and Bakary Sako is sidelined with injury. Dwight Gayle and Marouane Chamakh are set to be available at Goodison but Connor Wickham is expected to lead the line once again.


    Prediction


    Everton 3-1 Crystal Palace
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    Item Reviewed: Everton v Crystal Palace Preview Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Scott Hunt
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