Martin Jol anticipates a tough game against a strong Everton side when David Moyes’ men visit Craven Cottage on Saturday afternoon (3pm).
Our Manager was full of praise for the Merseyside outfit – who currently sit just two places above us in the Barclays Premier League – but he believes that it will be a tight contest between two evenly matched sides.
“I think Everton are probably the best of the rest,” Jol said in his pre-match press conference. “They don’t have the same resources as some of the bigger clubs like Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur but they still finish high in the league.
“Last season we were like them and we had the same points but lost our final game against Spurs and they went four points ahead of us. That was a great statistic – to be near Everton – because I see them as the best of the rest and we were almost there so that was great to see.
“There’s a good structure at that club; you don’t see a lot of changes all the time, they buy one player almost every year and fit him in, and that shows their consistency.
“They are almost always in the top 10 and hopefully we can do the same; we have managed that in the last couple of years and hopefully we can do it in the future. They are certainly the benchmark for a lot of clubs.”
Moyes has won plenty of plaudits for the way he has gone about building his squad, and our Manager admits Saturday’s opponents can boast strength all over the park.
“I feel that they have a lot of team players,” the Dutchman said. “They have one who I have always liked; Marouane Fellaini. Even when he was playing in Belgium he was always a star and he’s an unbelievable player.
“Then of course there’s Steven Pienaar who’s an individual who can hurt you. They’ve got Nikica Jelavic who came from Scotland and he was probably the player they needed, so I feel they are a good team, full of team players.
“At the back they’ve got Sylvain Distin, who’s an awesome player, and Phil Jagielka who is maybe a bit underestimated, but he’s an international player.
"Leighton Baines is, I think, recognised as the best full-back in Britain, so I like Everton. They’ve got another side, though, as they are tough and physical, but they can play so it’s a great combination.”
After picking up knocks in our last outing against Reading, there were concerns over the fitness of Chris Baird and Dimitar Berbatov, but Jol was quick to quash the notion that they wouldn’t be fit for the weekend.
“Berbatov is fine,” he said. “There was not a lot wrong with Baird either because he trained with us on the Tuesday. He injured himself after celebrating his goal last week.
“We’ve still got Simon Davies out after his operation on his hip and Mickael Tavares is out with the same sort of problem, although his is a minor problem. He’s got a minor irritation because of it on his hamstring but those are our only injuries at the moment.”