Fulham travel to our official bogey ground on Saturday for our penultimate away match of the 2012/13 Barclays Premier League season, looking to bounce back from consecutive defeats at Craven Cottage last week.
Everton’s Goodison Park has proven to be a barren venue for the Whites since our return to the top flight, with each of our previous 11 visits ending in defeat – and Martin Jol will know his side face a battle against a side chasing a European spot.
The fitness of Sascha Riether and Damien Duff will be assessed before the trip to Merseyside after the pair missed Saturday’s slim defeat by Arsenal, while Steve Sidwell will definitely be absent following his red card against the Gunners. Emmanuel Frimpong is available again having been ineligible to play against his parent club.
Everton will also be giving fitness tests to some key players of their own, with Phil Jagielka, Darron Gibson and Victor Anichebe all doubts for the weekend’s game. Jagielka missed the Toffees’ last match at Sunderland, while Gibson and Anichebe both limped off at the Stadium of Light.
Until recently, Everton were very much in the running for one of the available UEFA Champions League spots. Winning just one of their last four Premier League matches has all but ended those aspirations, but the current season has still been a successful one for David Moyes and his team.
They started the campaign perfectly with a 1-0 win over Manchester United at Goodison and followed that up with an impressive run of just one defeat in the subsequent 10 league matches – form which saw them sitting fourth in the table.
Defeat to Sunderland in their most recent outing has seen the Toffees slip six points behind fourth-placed Chelsea, and the fact that the Blues – and Tottenham Hotspur in fifth – have a game in hand means that a UEFA Europa League spot is almost certainly the best Everton can hope for come the end of the season.
They’ve shown that they are more than capable of competing with the sides above them, though, as is evident by their record against the top teams this season – they’re unbeaten in matches with Arsenal, Spurs and Manchester City in 2012/13, taking 10 points from a possible 18 against the sides.
Last time out
Fulham 2-2 Everton 03.11.2012
Deemed by many as the best away side to turn out at Craven Cottage this season, Everton could perhaps feel aggrieved to have only left SW6 with a point back in November.
The visitors started the match the brighter of the two teams, but it was Fulham who took the lead after only seven minutes. Dimitar Berbatov was fouled by Everton skipper Phil Neville several yards outside the area and Bryan Ruiz stepped up to curl the free-kick into the back of the net. The strike was initially ruled to be a Tim Howard own goal after it had found its way into the net via the goalkeeper, but the Dubious Goals Panel later decided to award the effort to Ruiz.
Jagielka, John Heitinga and Marouane Fellaini all went close for Everton, before they did find the equaliser 10 minutes into the second half. Seamus Coleman played in Kevin Mirallas down the right and the Belgium international cut the ball back to his compatriot Fellaini who made no mistake from close range.
And little over quarter of an hour later the Toffees were in front, with Fellaini again the scorer. The bulky midfielder tussled with Aaron Hughes in the penalty area – fairly according to the referee – before firing beyond Mark Schwarzer at his near post.
Everton had chances to kill the game through Fellaini and Steven Naismith who saw efforts hit the post and cleared off the line respectively, but they were left to rue their missed opportunities when substitute Sidwell popped up in the 90th minute to earn his side a point.
Riether’s low cross was meant for Berbatov and although the Bulgarian couldn’t make a decent connection, it mattered little as Sidwell was following up at the far post to tap in.
Players to watch
Marouane Fellaini: Everton’s top scorer this season enjoys playing against the Whites, scoring two against us in the last campaign, in addition to his brace at the Cottage back in November. His powerful frame makes him a difficult man to dispossess, and he matches his excellent aerial ability with a clinical shot, too. The 25-year-old is a regular in the Belgium midfield and has amassed 40 caps to date.
Kevin Mirallas: Another Belgian import now plying his trade in the Premier League, Mirallas has impressed in his first season in English football. Comfortable playing as a striker, it’s often the wide positions where Moyes has opted to play Mirallas – a move which has paid dividends on numerous occasions with his penetrating runs into the middle. A summer arrival from Greek outfit Olympiakos, he’s notched seven goals so far for the Merseyside club.
Victor Anichebe: He may have spent the majority of his Everton career as a squad player, but Anichebe is currently enjoying a fruitful run in the line-up, starting their last six matches. Another physical presence in the team, the Nigeria international is something of an Everton veteran having made his debut for the first team more than seven years ago when he came on as a late replacement for current Fulham man Simon Davies.