The Big Match Tactical View: Everton v Crystal Palace

Idrissa Gueye has provided tenacity in Everton's midfield zone
Idrissa Gueye has provided tenacity in Everton's midfield zone
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Friday night football sees Yannick Bolasie taking on his former side for the first time, in a game that promises goals. Michael Cox provides the tactical analysis while Alan Thompson supplies the betting expertise...

"This game should be largely about the wingers and the centre-forwards"

Everton v Crystal Palace
Friday, 20:00
Live on Sky Sports 1

Match Odds: Everton 1.758/11, Crystal Palace 5.39/2, The Draw 4.03/1.

With speedsters on the flanks and a powerful Belgian upfront, there are certainly similarities between Everton and Crystal Palace - but the home side are likely to dominate possession here, with Alan Pardew's men playing primarily on the counter-attack.

Everton have been excellent so far this season, although last weekend's surprise 1-0 defeat at Bournemouth has dampened optimism that the Toffees can push for a Champions League place this season.

What is unquestionable, though, is that Ronald Koeman has improved the mood around Goodison Park after an unhappy end to the Roberto Martinez reign. Romelu Lukaku, in particular, looks much livelier.

While Koeman used a 3-4-2-1 system for the opening two games of the season, he's since switched to a standard 4-2-3-1 with width on both sides from Kevin Mirallas and Yannick Bolasie, who will make his first appearance against Palace having left Selhurst Park in the summer.

With Ross Barkley showing only flashes of brilliance so far this season, and the midfield combination of Gareth Barry and Idrissa Gueye staying solidly in front of the defence, Everton heavily depend upon their two wingers for an attacking spark. They're capable of switching flanks, although Bolasie will probably be deployed from the right, allowing Mirallas to cut inside from the left.

Their battle against Palace's two full-backs will be crucial. With Pape Souare still unavailable after his recent car crash, Pardew will continue with Martin Kelly at left-back and Joel Ward on the right. Both are competent full-backs, but might find themselves isolated against Bolasie and Mirallas - they'll need all their knowledge of the former to keep him quiet.

Everton will also offer width from full-back, as Seamus Coleman has been pushing forward effectively this season. On the other flank, Leighton Baines is a doubt after missing last weekend's trip to Bournemouth because of injury, and Bryan Oviedo - unconvincing in his place - is in line for another start.

Pardew will welcome back Wilfried Zaha after he missed last week's victory over Sunderland, presumably starting from the right flank - although, again, he and Andros Townsend can switch flanks at will. His return will probably mean Jason Puncheon moving inside to the top of a midfield trio, with Yohan Cabaye dropping back alongside Joe Ledley or James McArthur.

Palace will sit relatively deep in two banks of four, before springing forward on the break, especially when the Everton full-backs push forward. Of course, the big difference this season is they finally have a prolific striker upfront - Christian Benteke has scored twice in his four games so far this season, and with two wingers serving him with regular crosses, appears at home after a difficult spell at Liverpool.

The midfield battle is unlikely to be particularly exciting here, with both sides concentrating on structure and protecting their defences. Barkley will attempt to find space between the lines, and Cabaye can create from deep positions, but this game should be largely about the wingers and the centre-forwards.

Palace have a peculiar defensive record this season, conceding only seven goals in six matches, but failing to keep a clean sheet. Everton, meanwhile, have kept two clean sheets and conceded a single goal in the other four games.

Both sides are scoring well, though, managing 10 apiece in their six matches so far. This feels like a 2-1 victory either way after a close match, so I'll back over 2.5 goals at 1.845/6.

The Betfair Trader - Alan Thompson

Friday night football gives The Toffees a chance to get back to winning ways and apply a bit of early season pressure to the teams above them in the league. They have suffered back-to-back defeats in different competitions, but the arrival of an in-form Crystal Palace affords them the opportunity to get them back on track.

It won’t be easy though The Eagles will be high in confidence, after their excellent fightback against Sunderland at the weekend, extending their winning streak to three games. However, they have conceded in every game this season and when you look at the teams they have beaten in their current run, Middlesbrough (2-1), a very out of sorts Stoke City (4-1) and a poor Sunderland (3-2) side that had them 2-0 behind. But they have scored nine goals (conceding four) in these three games.

Strangely, Everton also played the same teams as Crystal Palace, on their recent winning sequence, beating Middlesbrough 3-1, Stoke City 1-0 and Sunderland 3-0 (scored seven, conceded one). Only Tottenham Hotspur (3) have conceded fewer goals than Everton (4) so far this campaign.

History favours the visitors with Palace only losing one of the last six meetings, home or away against Everton. In the Premier League era The Eagles have only lost two of their seven trips to Goodison Park, including two wins and a draw from their last three visits.

While Everton may well take the points, they can take them without my money on them, I am not keen on backing the Toffees at 1.748/11 (I had them about 1.9110/11). I think we might get an open game with both teams going for the win and I would much prefer to play in the goals markets.

Both teams to score looks a good bet @ 1.855/6 but I will be splitting my stake, backing over 3.5 goals @ 3.185/40 before the game and looking to back Over 2.5 goals @ 2.35/4 in-play should it reach that point.

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