Crystal Palace-Everton Preview

TOM BENNETT (STATS European Football Writer)

Champions League qualification is tantalisingly close for Everton, and the Toffees will be looking to strengthen their grip on that top-four finish with a win over Crystal Palace at Goodison Park on Wednesday.

Roberto Martinez's first season in charge of Everton (19-9-5) is already guaranteed to be seen as a major success, with the former Wigan boss inspiring the club to their highest ever Premier League points tally with five games of the campaign still remaining. And the possibility of a top-four spot remains very much alive after Saturday's hard-fought 1-0 win over Sunderland - a result that made it seven straight wins for the Merseysiders.

Despite his team's terrific form and the coinciding slump of nearest rivals Arsenal (who have won just two in nine), Martinez called on Monday for the fans to get fully behind the team and cheer them on to another crucial three points against Palace.

"It's going to be a really difficult game and we need to be well rested and well prepared," said Martinez. "I'm excited about it. The welcome the players are going to have in front of our fans is going to be special. We've got the highest Premier League points tally in the club's history and I think the players deserve that sort of welcome.

"We need that support because Crystal Palace are one of the toughest sides in the division in terms of their defensive focus and how good they are in their defensive intensity."

Palace (11-4-18) head into Wednesday's game on the back of three straight wins and three straight clean sheets. The revival of the London club under Tony Pulis has seen them recover from a team that looked sure to be relegated to one that needs just a single win to move to the 40-point mark and almost guaranteed safety.

"I am very superstitious in lots of respects and until we are over the line I will keep worrying," said Pulis, despite his side being seven points clear of the drop zone with a game in hand. "You can't get carried away because things can turn around so quickly. It is about maintaining the players' focus.

"The most important thing is knowing that you are mathematically safe. Until then, I will be very wary."

Palace have lost just one of their last four away games and have allowed just 21 goals on the road this season - the fifth best record in the league. However, they have managed just nine goals themselves away from Selhurst Park and are coming up against an Everton team with a dauntingly strong home record: The Toffees have lost just twice in their last 39 league games at home and have won all of their last seven at Goodison.

Everton have injury doubts over Steven Pienaar (knee), Phil Jagielka (hamstring), Lacina Traore (hamstring), Arouna Kone (knee) and Darron Gibson (knee), while Bryan Oviedo remains out with a broken leg. Crystal Palace's only fitness concern is over midfielder Kagisho Dikgacoi.

It was a scoreless draw when these teams met at Selhurst Park in November.