Weblog: The football punter

Everton should see off out-of-sorts Palace

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Roy Hodgson has picked up one point in eight league matches as a visiting manager at Goodison Park and may endure another rotten afternoon as Everton look solid odds-on favourites to dispatch his injury-hit Crystal Palace side.

Selection will be left as late as possible by Hodgson, who could be without as many as eight first-team squad players.

Three Eagles players are rated touch and go - fringe men Max Meyer and Alexander Sorloth (both illness) and talisman Wilfried Zaha, who is battling to overcome a groin strain sustained while he was on Ivory Coast international duty.

Whenever Zaha's involvement is in doubt, Palace fans tend to break out in a cold sweat and with good reason.

Since the start of last season they have played ten league matches without the Ivorian and lost the lot.

Hodgson will be desperate to call on his star man but must consider the risk of pushing him too hard and losing him for an extended period.

With or without Zaha, Palace face a tough match.

Everton were a little inconsistent in the early part of the season with several key players injured and others getting used to a different style of football.

But there were encouraging signs before the international break as Marco Silva's side picked up wins at home to Fulham (3-0) and at Leicester (2-1).

The victory at Leicester was well-deserved (they won the shot count 17 to eight) and there should be much more to come from Silva's side, who have the potential to push for a top-six finish.

Offensively, they look a huge threat with Richarlison and Theo Walcott offering the pace and penetration while Bernard and Gylfi Sigurdsson possess fantastic ability on the ball.

Sigurdsson is revelling in the number ten position – he was regularly played out wide by Sam Allardyce – and Everton's attacking quartet have the freedom to express themselves, knowing Idrissa Gueye will cover a huge amount of ground in midfield.

However, Gueye is an injury doubt this weekend and his absence would be a obvious negative because likely replacement Morgan Schneiderlin is far less energetic and lacks confidence after failing to win over the Everton crowd.

Everton's attackers will have to work harder out of possession if Gueye fails to win his fitness battle.

But the importance of Gueye to Everton cannot be compared to Palace's reliance on Zaha.

Hodgson tried to pep up his attack this summer by snapping up Jordan Ayew on loan from Swansea but the Ghanaian has failed to score in six Palace appearances.

Winger Andros Townsend blows hot and cold (usually cold) and Christian Benteke's value continues to plummet after an injury-hit start to the season.

On the bright side, Palace have four more points than at the same stage of last season.

However, the clash against Everton comes before four matches against big-six clubs and the risks of getting drawn into a relegation battle are obvious.

The Londoners will feel it is vital they get something at Everton but they look out of sorts and heading for a third successive league defeat.


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Match in Focus


Gibraltar v Ireland

Home WinDrawAway Win
Key stats
  • Gibraltar have conceded ten goals in their last two competitive games.
Expert verdict
Ireland are ranked 34th in the world and will be looking to get their Euro 2020 qualification campaign off to a strong start against an inferior Gibraltar side. Newly appointed manager Mick McCarthy will be eager to impress and will expect his side to win well if they are to qualify for the Euros. Expect a fast start and plenty of goals in a one-sided affair.