Everton boss faces difficult Cup selections ahead of third round tie at Crystal Palace

Sean Dyche has been talking about where the FA Cup sits in his priorities as the Toffees take the trip to South London tonight.
Everton FC v Manchester City - Premier League
Everton FC v Manchester City - Premier League / James Gill - Danehouse/GettyImages

The FA Cup third round represents one of the great occasions in the English football calendar traditionally ushering in a New Year as the top flight teams join the World's oldest cup competition.

For the Blues manager though his priority remains of course ensuring Premier League survival once again at the end of the season.

That could be made even more difficult if the league punishes the Toffees further following news that the club's accounts up to summer 2023 are also now being scrutinised for potential breaches.

Everton have already suffered the heaviest points deduction in English football history last November, a decision that propelled the Blues back down the table and into the relegation zone.

Any more points deductions (although it's not clear they would be imposed this season) would probably prove fatal to the team's chances of staying up.

This situation is something that is obviously beyond Dyche's control and all he can do is try to influence what happens on the pitch.

Given how small his first-team squad is, the Everton boss has to make some difficult decisions regarding team selections.

Dyche recognises the huge desire amongst Evertonians for success and most of all a trophy, with the club's last silverware won way back in May 1995, almost 30 years ago.

That of course was the FA Cup, as the Toffees defeated Manchester United one-nil at Wembley to win the old trophy for the fifth and so far, final time.

I am old enough to remember the great sides of the mid-eighties and those final two championship-winning campaigns of 1984-85 and 86-87.

It seems more than a lifetime ago since those halcyon days when Everton supporters could quite legitimately call their team the greatest in the land.

Obviously, no club can live in the past, but it is hard not to wish for a return to that era when the club has endured such a tough time for so long.

That of course is largely the fault of those in control who have so badly mismanaged one of the game's great institutions, particularly over the last five or six years.

Getting back to tonight and the manager confirmed that several of his key players are still out with midfielders Abdoulaye Doucoure and Idrissa Gueye missing again as well as full-back Ashley Young.

While a good cup run would surely be a pleasantly distracting tonic for a fanbase constantly facing seemingly endless anxiety and stress week-in-week-out in the Premier League, Dyche rightly is ultimately prioritising points over the FA Cup.

Everton won a thriller three-two the last time they played at Selhurst Park and it would be good to get back to winning ways after three consecutive defeats to end 2023.

So, he has a difficuly balancing act to deal with. On the one hand a cup run might well prove a nice alternative to Premier League pressures, but he also has to keep his small squad healthy enough for a gruelling next five months or so.