Easter Monday’s first Premier League game begins from the curious position that victory cannot realistically affect either side’s league placing. Everton, who welcome back James Rodriguez, are in eighth and would only climb to seventh by virtue of a winning margin of eight goals while Palace are in 12th and five points behind 11th-placed Leeds.
Everton lost in the Cup last time out and also went down in their previous two league games, against Chelsea and Burnley. Carlo Ancelotti is insisting that it’s time to find their nerve and dig in for Europa League qualification which, he thinks, is a minimum for a squad of their quality.
“I think we did well until now because if you asked us where would we like to be in the last 10 games of the season we could answer that we want to stay and fight for European positions,” he said. “There are difficult, important games, but the target is there. If we are consistent, if we are brave I think we can reach the target.
“It will be an exciting race as a lot of teams are involved. We are convinced we can do well, we can reach a European position. “Of course we have to fight in every game, we have 10 games and we have to improve the home run which was not good, starting with Crystal Palace.”
Palace are in much better form, winning two and drawing two of their last five but they are averaging only a smidgen above a goal a game and are reliant, as ever under Roy Hodgson, on their organisation, strong defence and the flair of Zaha and now Eze. Hodgson, understandably, continues to be miffed by criticism of his team’s style:
“I think we can possibly play with a bit of less pressure because two or three of the last few games have been extremely pressurised games, in particular the games against Fulham and West Brom,” he said.
“If we’re talking about securing our place in the league, they were really high-pressure games so in that respect there might be slightly less pressure.
“I don’t understand expansive. If expansive means are we now going to start rolling the ball out and making seven or eight passes around our penalty area, we won’t be doing that.
“That is not the way we play and we don’t have the type of players who would appreciate us trying to ask them to do that. We are going to keep on trying to put a team out and prepare it to win the game.”