The long wait is finally over and the Premier League is back. Ahead of new season Hunter Young breaks down The Eagle’s opening week clash against the Toffees of Everton at Selhurst Park.
The constant rumors and consistent excitement that always accompany the closing of the transfer window has somewhat overshadowed the fact that Palace start play meaningful games this Saturday. With the new season comes excitement, but also a certain level of anxiety as despite managing to keep hold of Wilfried Zaha the overall activity of the transfer window has not inspired great confidence in the Selhurst faithful. An up and down pre-season has not helped calm fans with the final tune-up match being a 0-4 hammering at home to Bundesliga side Hertha Berlin.
Their opponent is a team that has caused Palace fans great stress recently, as one of the chief suitors for Eagles forward Wilfried Zaha, Everton. After a summer that included big spending expectations will be high for the Toffees as they look to finally break into the top six, and the European competitions that those places entail. The Toffees turned in a middling preseason that raised questions about their ability to score goals despite their talent in the forward positions. Marco Silva’s men will see the match against Palace as an early opportunity to get three points on the board and The Eagles will have to start this season strong.
In terms of the Palace line-up, the starting eleven for last week’s friendly against Hertha likely serves as a good indication of how Roy Hodgson will deploy his team in his preferred 4-4-2 formation. The defence will likely look vastly different from last season’s preferred back line as an injury to James Tomkins and Mamadou Sakho’s continued recovery will likely keep them both out while recent signing Gary Cahill will likely not be prepared to feature on the weekend. Joel Ward and Patrick van Aanholt are projected to serve as the fullbacks by virtue of being the only senior players at their positions. Recent signings James McCarthy and Victor Camarasa are also unlikely to start given their recent arrival at the club. Wilfried Zaha’s inclusion is also in doubt as he is not long back to training following the Africa Cup of Nations and with Hodgson sending him home from Thursday’s trainings due to his mindset not being in the right place amid transfer rumors. Jeffery Schlupp could also feature up front with Christian Benteke if he is fit, instead of Jordan Ayew.
It is the centre-back duo of Scott Dann and Martin Kelly, along with Joel Ward, who will likely come under the greatest pressure from a threatening Everton attack. Despite already having talented attackers Richarlison, Bernard, and Gylfi Sigurdsson they added Italian wonderkid Moise Kean and winger Alex Iwobi. The spotlight will shine especially bright on Joel Ward as he did not feature much last season but will be a key player with the departure of Aaron Wan-Bissaka over the summer. Despite these new signings Everton’s most dangerous player remains the Brazilian forward Richarlison who has pace, strength, and ball skills that few players outside of the top six can match.
Special attention should also be paid to the battle in the centre of the park as despite the purchase of former Barcelona loaneeAndre Gomes the departure of midfielder Idrissa Gueye to PSG. Everton could struggle to adjust to life without Gueye at first, despite the purchase of defensive midfielder Jean-Philippe Gbamin, as he had appeared in 33 Premier League matches each of the last three seasons. If Luka Milivojevic and James McArthur can control the engine room with will give Palace an advantage in the match, and help negate Everton’s likely superiority on the wings.
Overall this will be a difficult opening match for the Eagle’s to achieve victory (they have not beat Everton since the first time the teams faced off following Palace’s return to the top flight) however both sides will be anxious to start the season out on the right foot.