Everton take on Crystal Palace on Saturday at Goodison Park in their last match before a long overdue break for a few weeks.
This represents another very winnable game for Everton and a golden opportunity for the Blues to get themselves right into the mix for a European place, if they can claim those three points.
The Toffees have been on a good run of form overall since Carlo Ancelotti took over as Everton manager. In fact the Blues have the best form of any Premier League team, apart from Liverpool, since Ancelotti joined the club.
The Italian boss has made a really significant impact and is beginning to change the quality of performances and particularly, importantly, the mental resilience of the side.
I think this mental shift is perhaps more important than any tactical tweeks or changes to formations. The weakness of the player’s mindset has been perhaps the most fundamental problem within the team over the past few seasons.
The signs things are changing is most welcome. Victory at Watford last weekend seemed to represent a significant shift in that mental template.
Coming from two goals down to win with ten men, was a first for this Everton team in many a long while. Let’s hope it is the harbinger of things to come.
There are still problems, in particular the endemic defensive weakness dealing with set-plays and a continuing propensity for making unforced individual errors.
Finishing off Ancelotti’s first stint as Blues manager with a win against Palace, would represent a great foundation for the team to push on in the rest of the season to pursue that European place.
This weekend’s opponents have had a much better season than many might have thought at the start of this campaign. They are sitting comfortably in mid-table, although they have lost their last two Premier League games.
During the summer of course there were many hyped up rumours that they were going to lose their prized asset, Wilfried Zaha.
The Blues, along with Arsenal, were obviously heavily linked with signing him and he supposedly wanted to leave although nothing happened in the end and Zaha stayed put. He has since responded well and has had another solid enough season for the Eagles.
Palace are a strong reflection of their manager, Roy Hodgson. They are cautious, defensive and hard-working as a side. This might not be the most entertaining approach but it works.
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They also do have a propensity to perform better against the ‘top’ teams. So the Eagles have beaten Manchester United at Old Trafford, drawn both matches with Arsenal, got a well deserved point at Manchester City, and also narrowly lost at runaway league leaders Liverpool.
Away from home they are predictably unadventurous in their tactics, looking to defend in numbers and counter-attack when they can. So I would expect a similar approach on Saturday at Goodison Park, especially given the Toffees excellent home form.
Everton will therefore probably need to be patient and build pressure in order to win this game. An early goal would be good to force Palace to come out of their defensive shell a bit more quickly, but I think it will likely be quite similar to the Burnley match, Ancelotti’s first in charge.
That said I would happily take a 1-0 win like that game, especially with another clean sheet, which is something that I think Everton still need more of.