Having tried and failed miserably to confirm their Premier League safety at the weekend, Everton’s final home game of the season takes place on Thursday evening, with Crystal Palace making the journey to Goodison Park.
Frank Lampard’s side fell to pieces in a 3-2 loss to Brentford on Sunday, while the Eagles were forced to settle for a 1-1 draw away to Aston Villa.
While Everton fans were busy letting off fireworks outside the Brentford team hotel at 3.30am in the morning, the Bees made sparks fly on the pitch, as Everton ended the game with zero points and nine men after a five-goal classic.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison both struck for the Toffees in a first half that also saw Jarrad Branthwaite shown a 16th-minute red card and Seamus Coleman’s own goal handing Brentford a lifeline, but two quickfire headers from Rico Henry and Yoane Wissa turned the game on its head before Salomon Rondon’s dreadful challenge and subsequent sending off.
However, with Leeds United and Burnley both failing to win at the weekend as well, 16th-placed Everton would ensure that they could not be caught by the Whites with all three points on Thursday evening before a trip to Arsenal on the final day.
A four-game unbeaten run on home soil came to an abrupt end for Everton against Thomas Frank’s side, but they are now 90 minutes away from salvaging their top-flight status, and defeat to Brentford represents just a second loss in seven for Lampard’s men.
Furthermore, not since January 2015 have the Merseyside outfit lost a Premier League game on a Thursday – winning three and drawing four since – and Palace travel to Goodison Park with far less on the line than their survival-scrapping hosts.
On the back of being nominated for the Premier League’s Manager of the Season award, Patrick Vieira extended his side’s unbeaten run in the top flight to four matches at Villa Park, but the Eagles left it late to salvage a result.
Ollie Watkins’s brute strength allowed him to get on the end of Lucas Digne’s cross and poke home the opener in the 69th minute, but Jeffrey Schlupp was in the right place at the right time to equalise with nine minutes to go for the resilient Eagles.
At first glance, 13th-placed Palace are enjoying a simple stroll to the finish line, but while it is still mathematically possible for Vieira’s men to push for a top-half finish, the Frenchman will not allow his side to put their feet up just yet.
Vieira’s young squad also travel to Goodison Park having suffered only two defeats from their last nine Premier League away matches, and the prospect of completing a first-ever league double over Everton is certainly a realistic one given their recent travails.
Indeed, Everton were thumped 4-0 by Palace in the FA Cup two months ago following a 3-1 Premier League win back in December, but Lampard’s reinvigorated side fighting for their lives at the bottom of the table will prove a different kettle of fish at Goodison.
Everton Premier League form:
Crystal Palace Premier League form:
Crystal Palace form (all competitions):
We say: Everton 1-1 Crystal Palace
Palace are the Premier League’s stalemate specialists with a whopping 15 draws already this season, and it would not be a surprise to see a similarly tight contest on the Goodison turf.
Everton’s recent defensive implosion and hefty injury list has hampered their bid to secure survival early, and Vieira’s side have what it takes to keep the Toffees at bay for large portions and force them to do it the hard way at the Emirates.