Everton’s Push for Europa League Spot Faces Palace Test 

​Everton will be in high spirits when they host Crystal Palace today, having secured a late winner against Watford the previous week, with Carlo Ancelotti hoping to extend their four-match unbeaten run in the league. But with just three points separating the two sides, can Roy Hodgson overcome his poor form to claim the win at Goodison Park?

Everton will be looking to stretch their unbeaten run in the Premier League to five matches when they welcome Crystal Palace to Goodison Park this afternoon.

The Toffees came from two goals behind to beat Watford 3-2 at Vicarage Road last weekend, but Palace lost at home to Sheffield United to make it six league games without a win.

It has not all been plain sailing for Carlo Ancelotti since his arrival at the club, but there is no question that the Italian would have been delighted by his team’s response at Watford last weekend after falling 2-0 behind.

The Toffees turned the game around to record a 3-2 win at Vicarage Road, meaning that they are unbeaten in the Premier League since a narrow 2-1 defeat at Manchester City on New Year’s Day.

After this weekend, Everton will not play again until February 23 when they visit Arsenal, and a win in today’s early kickoff would actually move them into seventh position in the Premier League table.

Not since November 23 have the Merseyside giants lost a league match at Goodison Park, winning three of their last five in front of their own fans, who will be expecting another positive result today.

Everton have actually not lost to Palace in the Premier League since September 2014, although the last two league meetings between the two sides have finished in goalless draws.

When Ancelotti arrived at Everton, he inherited a club languishing near the foot of the Premier League table, struggling to collect points despite an impressive, well-stocked playing squad.

Today, he has collected 16 of a possible 21 points and has guided the Toffees to sit ninth in the league. In fact, almost 50 per cent of Everton’s points this season have come under Ancelotti, who’s led just 28 per cent of their league matches.

The Italian’s turnaround on Merseyside sees him and the Blues competing with only Liverpool for form: the Reds are the only side to have collected more from their last 10 games.

Furthermore, Everton have turned Goodison Park into something of a fortress this season: going unbeaten in five league games (W3 D2) while earning three clean sheets in their last four on home soil. Indeed, the Toffees have suffered just three defeats in their last 17 home league games (W10 D4).

But Palace can take solace from four of their five Premier League wins against Everton having been on Merseyside (80 per cent). Against no other team have the Eagles won more Premier League away games (also four against Leicester).

The last time out between these two sides saw Selhurst Park host a deadlocked match, in which Morgan Schneiderlin received a second yellow card for his foul on Luka Milivojevic.

The Eagles enjoyed two threatening spells during that meeting: at the end of the first-half and between the 56-57th minutes. Alas, the game remained goalless – but the two sides haven’t been involved in a 0-0 draw for 18 clashes between them in all competitions.

After ​Fabian Delph was handed a red card in the second half of Everton’s 3-2 win over Watford last weekend, the 30-year-old will serve a one-match ban for this fixture. Morgan Schneiderlin is therefore likely to replace the Englishman alongside Gylfi Sigurdsson in the centre of midfield.

However, Roy Hodgson too deserves immense credit for the job that he continues to perform at Palace, but the experienced manager will certainly be concerned by his team’s form in recent weeks.

Indeed, without a Premier League victory since Boxing Day, the Eagles have dropped into 14th position in the table. They are only actually six points clear of the relegation zone, suggesting that the club is far from safe despite impressing in the opening months of the campaign.

The capital outfit have lost their last two in the league to Southampton and Sheffield United without scoring, but they did pick up a point at Manchester City in their last away match on January 18.

Palace have actually only lost one of their last nine Premier League matches on the road, demonstrating that they are a much tougher proposition on their travels than at Selhurst Park.

The Eagles have been beaten on each of their last two visits to Goodison Park in the top flight, though, and will be the underdogs entering this weekend’s clash on Merseyside.

Since Ancelotti took over, there has been an undeniable resurgence in this ​Everton side, with the Italian boss claiming four wins in his first seven league games for the Toffees. As a result, the Merseyside club currently find themselves in ninth place in the table – a vast improvement from the beginning of the campaign, where they were battling against sides in the relegation zone.

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