Everton 3-1 Crystal Palace
- Goals: Bernard (£6.4m), Richarlison (£8.1m), Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£6.1m) | Christian Benteke (£5.7m)
- Assists: Theo Walcott (£6.2m), Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison | Wilfried Zaha (£6.8m)
- Bonus: Richarlison x3, Calvert-Lewin x2, Benteke, Bernard x1
Everton and Crystal Palace are heading in opposite directions on the Season Ticker, with the Toffees rock-bottom over the next four Gameweeks and Roy Hodgson’s side loitering somewhere near the top.
On current form, however, the tables are turned.
The blue half of Merseyside have lost only once (to Manchester City) since Carlo Ancelotti first took charge on Boxing Day and now sit seventh in the Premier League following Saturday’s 3-1 win over the Eagles.
Palace are plummeting south, meanwhile, and have won only one of their last 11 league games.
For a side supposedly built on a solid defence, they are in dire shape.
No other Premier League is on a barren run as long as Palace’s in terms of clean sheets, with Vicente Guaita (£5.0m) without a shut-out to his name in two months.
Given their well-documented struggle for goals at the other end of the pitch, the question has to be asked as to just what they have to offer Fantasy managers despite the upcoming favourable run of games (Newcastle and Watford at home, Brighton and Bournemouth away).
Martin Kelly (£4.3m), Palace’s most-owned Fantasy Premier League asset by some distance, had lost his place at right-back even before he picked up the calf injury that ruled him out of Gameweek 26, while the Eagles’ defence may have been further weakened on Saturday by the loss of James Tomkins (£5.0m) to injury.
Roy Hodgson said of his centre-half after full-time:
He’ll have to have a scan. He’s definitely got a hamstring problem, there’s no doubt about that, and unfortunately, they normally take weeks rather than days. I’m not expecting good news but we won’t know until the scan how bad the news is. Of course, it’s a shame to lose him.
The defenders that do remain hardly covered themselves in glory on Merseyside although Palace were in this match for long periods, despite what the scoreline suggests.
The Goodison Park faithful were getting tetchy midway through the game as the visitors got on top, with the mood not helped when Christian Benteke (£5.7m) fired the Eagles level shortly after the break.
The Belgian striker is far from clinical in front of goal and his levelling strike should have been easily stopped by Jordan Pickford (£5.3m) but Benteke built on a promising comeback game against Sheffield United with another busy display on Saturday, turning Patrick van Aanholt‘s (£5.5m) corner onto the bar on 56 minutes, forcing Pickford into an excellent point-blank save soon after, and firing wide when well-placed late on.
Benteke’s return to the first-team fold has come at the expense of Jordan Ayew‘s (£5.0m) goal threat, with the Ghanaian striker farmed out to the right flank, although it’ll be interesting to see which front three Hodgson opts for once Andros Townsend (£5.6m) is fully back up to speed.
Van Aanholt had himself struck the upright early in the game and, reflecting on the game, Hodgson said:
I thought we played well for large parts of the game. Not right at the start or the late stage. For 20/25 minutes in the first half, there was not much going on at all for either side, although they’d scored. At the end of that half, the last 20 minutes of that half, we started to play much better, pass the ball better and started to look like we might score a goal.
At half-time, I encouraged the players to do what they’d been doing maybe even a bit more for the start of the second half. When we got the equaliser, I thought it was a fair result, a fair reflection on how we played. The second goal, when we were pushing ourselves, came from a poor pass which was intercepted and all of a sudden you’ve got Richarlison, who’s obviously in very good form at the moment, making that incredible run scoring that fantastic goal.
That puts us on the back foot but we had two very good chances to equalise and the goalkeeper had to make a wonder save. The third goal was when we made a lot of changes in the hope of pulling out an equaliser right at the end and that seals the game. It was a 2-1 defeat more than a 3-1 defeat. But it’s a defeat which hurts us badly because i didn’t think that the performance necessarily merited it.
Everton weren’t great, it has to be said, but then Fantasy assets don’t have to be, so long as they are regularly racking up the points.
In Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£6.1m) and Richarlison (£8.1m), Everton possess two in-form players in attack who are thriving under Ancelotti.
Calvert-Lewin’s flick set Richarlison on his way to restore the Toffees’ lead at 2-1 before the mid-price FPL forward got on the scoresheet himself late on, tapping in when the Brazilian’s header had looped against the bar.
Their double-digit hauls could have been even greater had Calvert-Lewin converted a close-range rebound in stoppage time when Guaita had pushed Richarlison’s drive into his path.
Ancelotti said of the Brazil international after full-time:
We have to thank Richarlison because he scored a fantastic goal on the counter-attack. That was the key point and, after, our control of the game was good. It was an outstanding counter-attack, he is a fantastic player, really young and really important for us. It was an outstanding goal.
Richarlison can also play on the left but we don’t have to give him a lot of defensive work. He has to be fresh when we have the ball, he can play right and left, but without thinking too much about defensive work.
Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin are averaging a very healthy 6.83 and 5.88 points per match respectively under Ancelotti and their owners will perhaps be in a quandary, with Everton facing an off-putting run of fixtures that includes seven of the top ten in Gameweeks 27-35.
Are any of those opponents – bar Liverpool – infallible, though? The Gunners, Manchester United and Chelsea, who Everton face next, are certainly not the watertight forces of yesteryear.
The same could be said of Everton’s clean sheet prospects in Gameweeks 27 and 28, with Mikel Arteta’s side hardly racking up the goals of late and the Red Devils struggling without the talismanic Marcus Rashford (£8.9m).
The Toffees’ slightly ropey performance at the back on Saturday might convince owners of Everton defensive assets to sell, however, with only a Pickford wonder save and the woodwork coming between the Eagles and more goals at Goodison.
It’s now just one clean sheet in seven for Everton, too, despite the likes of Palace, Watford, West Ham and Newcastle (twice) providing favourable opposition in that time.
Added to this is rotation risk.
Two of Everton’s most-popular defenders among active FPL teams, Mason Holgate (£4.5m) and Djibril Sidibe (£5.3m), began this one on the bench, with both emerging as substitutes. Sidibe was in fact thrown on early enough to be eligible for clean sheet points, only for Palace and Pickford to ruin that prospect.
Ancelotti had previously made noises about rotating his centre-halves and, when asked about his latest team selection, said:
We need more of everything. More quality, more intensity, more pressure, more concentration. It’s not easy to pick the line-up but I want everyone to be involved and the players accept my decisions.
The Toffees’ head coach added that Theo Walcott (£6.2m), who crossed for Bernard (£6.4m) to volley in Everton’s superb opener, will have a scan on an apparently minor knee injury that forced the winger off after just 25 minutes on Saturday.
Everton XI (4-4-2): Pickford; Coleman, Keane, Mina, Digne; Walcott (Sidibe 26′), Schneiderlin, Sigurdsson (Holgate 86′), Bernard (Davies 65′); Richarlison, Calvert-Lewin.
Crystal Palace XI (4-5-1): Guiata; Ward (Kouyate 79′), Tomkins (Dann 61′), Cahill, van Aanholt; Ayew, McArthur, Milivojevic, McCarthy (Meyer 68′), Zaha; Benteke.
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