Will Pienaar's return be something to celebrate? - Alex Livesey
This weekend Everton travel to the capital to take on Fulham, determined to end their streak of three consecutive draws.
The last time Everton went to London they played terribly and escaped bottom-club Queens Park Rangers with a point. A similar performance this around at European contenders Fulham will not reap the same returns. Three consecutive draws against teams in the bottom half of the table mean Everton have lost most of the momentum from their hot start to the season and nothing less than a win will put that charge back on track. The Toffees have struggled without Darron Gibson, who will miss out once again this week, and David Moyes must be at his wits end wondering how he can fill that position.
Fulham are traditional slow starters in the Everton mould, but this season both teams have come flying out the gates. Martin Jol has built a strong side with lots of attacking prowess, but has recently shown a penchant for conceding late goals, and you can be sure David Moyes will be reviewing the film to see where the weaknesses lie. Fulham have been strong at home though with a couple of big wins, and a close loss to defending champions Manchester City just over a month ago.
Team News -
Early news is that Kevin Mirallas is expected to be fit and should slot into his right wing spot, while Steven Pienaar returns from suspension and goes back to left wing. If Mirallas does not start than either Seamus Coleman could go out to the wing and Tony Hibbert return to right back, or else Steven Naismith could get a run at Mirallas spot and either Coleman or Hibbert get the start in defence.
Jol has a few injury worries, with only Simon Davies out long term. Striker Dimitar Berbatov has a rib injury and might play, while key link man Chris Baird is returning to fitness after a layoff and is also in contention to start.
Keys To The Game -
For the Blues, keeping it simple has been the route to success this year. Patience in bringing the ball out of defence, the short passing game in midfield to open up space, incisive runs behind the backline down the wings, and a cross to the middle to be met by Nikica Jelavic, Marouane Fellaini and co. However, the vilified 'Osville' combo platter of Phil Neville and Leon Osman have struggled with holding and distributing the ball. It could come down once again to how well the two play, and if Fellaini dropping back in support does not blunt the attack with Jelavic isolated.
Fulham on the other hand have not adequately replaced playmaker Moussa Dembele, and this has shown itself towards the latter stages of games especially with opponents swarming the midfield. Their 4-4-1-1 is quite direct, with Berbatov at the top and veteran Hugo Rodallega behind him. Brian Ruiz has struggled to make an impression in England so far, but could get a look in if Berbatov cannot go. Another veteran Damien Duff has replaced Mladen Petric on the right wing while Mahamadou Diarra has been better than Steven Sidwell in the middle of the park. A strong start and an early goal or two should ensure the three points, as they have been less prone to folding at home.
Match Facts -
- Everton have won seven and only lost once in their last nine games against Fulham in all competitions.
- The Toffees have one loss in their last eighteen Premier League games, failing to score just twice.
- Fulham have scored ten goals at home this season, only surpassed by the top three clubs.
- The Cottagers have squandered ten points from winning positions this season, second worst in the League.
- Only four Costa Rican players have played in the Premier League, and two might play on Saturday - Bryan Oviedo and Brian Ruiz.