Everton return to Goodison Park on Saturday after two tremendous performances on the road. The Blues followed up the spectacular 4-0 win over Stoke with four points away from home, firstly beating Manchester United thanks to a goal from Bryan Oviedo, before snatching a richly deserved point at the Emirates thanks to a late equaliser from the sensational teenager, Gerard Deulofeu.
This fixture against Fulham, is the first of three home games in the next four matches, a run of fixtures that Roberto Martinez will be looking to take maximum advantage of. The Blues have a an incredible home record against the Londoners, with 13 league wins from 13 since the Cottagers were promoted to the Premier League in 2001. That record will weigh heavily on the shoulders of the visiting players, although new manager René Meulensteen will be keen to continue the positive progress his team have made in the last 10 days.
Following the sacking of fellow Dutchman, Martin Jol, Meulensteen has instilled a sense of fight in his players and this will be anything but an easy match, even if Fulham do currently sit in the bottom three of the Premier League table. In contrast the Blues are riding high and a win on Saturday would temporarily at least, lift Everton in the top four and ahead of Liverpool who face Tottenham on Sunday.
Roberto Martinez will be forced into at least one change with James McCarthy missing the game through suspension after picking up a fifth yellow card of the season in the match against Arsenal. Also on four bookings are Ross Barkley, Gareth Barry and Tim Howard, with each of them walking a tightrope until the amnesty on 31 December.
A number of options are open to Martinez to replace McCarthy, with Osman, Heitinga or Deulofeu likely to come into the team. Deulofeu’s inclusion could prompt a rejig elsewhere, with Mirallas or Pienaar asked to play centrally and Ross Barkley likely to drop into a more withdrawn role.
Leighton Baines has an outside chance of a return on Saturday, although the match with Swansea in a weeks’ time is a more likely return date for England’s left back.
Possible Line Up: Howard; Oviedo, Coleman, Jagielka, Distin; Barry, Osman; Pienaar, Barkley, Deulofeu; Lukaku
Everton’s home record against Fulham is nothing short of sensational and this week we feature an Everton victory from the 2005-6 season. Everton had endured a difficult campaign after the high of finishing 4th the season before, but as the season entered into the final few weeks, they finally found their feet in front of goal. In this match against Fulham James Beattie struck twice before a James McFadden goal gave the Toffees a 3-1 victory.
Best of the Rest
The top of the table is becoming a nine horse race for the European spaces and from here on in we will focus briefly on Everton’s opponents at the top of the table. This weekend sees a number of Everton’s rivals facing off against each other, with three big matches, including Tottenham vs Liverpool at the top end of the table. Arsenal make the trip to Manchester City, with two genuine title contenders going head to head and elsewhere Newcastle have a home fixture against surprise package Southampton.
Manchester City vs Arsenal
Chelsea vs Crystal Palace
Everton vs Fulham
Newcastle vs Southampton
Aston Villa vs Manchester United
Tottenham vs Liverpool