Martinez aware of Palace pitfall
Published 15/04/2014 | 15:47
Everton boss Roberto Martinez is all too aware of the threat Crystal Palace pose to his side's top-four dreams.
The Toffees moved ahead of Arsenal in the battle to qualify for the Champions League with a seventh victory in a row over Sunderland on Saturday.
Another five wins from their remaining matches would guarantee Everton a place in the top four for only the second time in the Premier League era, with Palace the first of those tests, at Goodison Park on Wednesday evening.
Their focus may be at the other end of the table but the Eagles' third win in a row against Aston Villa at the weekend just about ensured their survival.
It is a remarkable achievement given the club looked destined for relegation when Tony Pulis took over as manager in November.
Martinez said: "Momentum and confidence, those are the words you can feel in the dressing room, but we know how difficult it's going to be.
"The mind is very much set on the challenges that we have. Two away games and three massive home games, which start on Wednesday with Crystal Palace.
"In my eyes they have probably the best defensive set-up in this league, especially since Tony Pulis arrived at the club, they don't concede many goals, if any, and now they are probably in one of the best runs of their season with three straight wins.
"We're well aware that we need to create a special atmosphere under the floodlights and make sure we are really strong helping the players to face a very difficult fixture."
Palace had picked up only four points from their first 11 games when former Stoke boss Pulis took the job.
Since then they have won 10 matches and kept 11 clean sheets, conceding an average of less than a goal a game.
Martinez said of his opposite number: "It comes with his experience.
"He's accumulated a very strong method of working. You can see how hard the team works and how well organised they are and the defensive set-up is impressive.
"We know what to expect, and the biggest compliment I can pay to Tony Pulis is that, even though you know what to expect, it's very difficult to compete against it."
Martinez will pick from the same squad he had at Sunderland, with captain Phil Jagielka still not quite ready to come back after a hamstring problem.
Martinez has exploited the loan system with a string of "clever" short-term signings, according to Crystal Palace boss Pulis.
Pulis is unfazed by facing loan trio Romelu Lukaku, Gerard Deulofeu and Gareth Barry.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has criticised the loan system several times this season, questioning the validity of Everton flirting with Champions League qualification thanks in part to short-term recruits.
Everton boss Martinez has batted off the criticism without fuss, especially in light of his side's 3-0 victory over Wenger's men on April 6, and the Spaniard has received support from Pulis.
"They've not broken any rules," said the former Stoke manager.
"If it's within the rules, as long as they're not breaking any rules they're entitled to do what they want.
"I think Roberto has been clever.
"Do I think certain rules are right? There are certain rules I think are absolutely crazy, but they are the rules and you abide by them.
"Everybody knows them, they are set out.
"I think the important thing is that if Roberto had broken the rules then you could talk about it, but the rules are there for everybody to use.
"And if he's used them, and he's used it to his benefit and Everton's benefit then fair play to him."
Palace head to Merseyside aiming to extend a run of three consecutive league victories, as they battle to secure their top-flight status.
Pulis said avoiding relegation would serve to highlight the impact of co-owners Steve Parrish and Stephen Browett, and board members Martin Long and Phil Alexander.
"I'll be absolutely delighted if we can stay up," said Pulis, anticipating a severe test of his side's new-found resolve at Everton.
"Especially to do it for the supporters who have been excellent at the club, and the four directors have got to take a lot of credit.
"They've bought the club when it was in a lot of trouble and they've seen it through to promotion to the Premier League.
"And if we do it, they deserve a lot of credit too.
"Everton have been on a strong run but I don't really worry too much about them, all I care about is us and what we need to do to get a result."