LIVERPOOL, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 25: Tony Hibbert (R) of Everton battles for the ball with Clint Dempsey of Fulham during the Barclays Premier League match between Everton and Fulham at Goodison Park on April 25, 2010 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Clint Hughes/Getty Images)
Apologies for being this late with the match preview, work and the NFL Draft got in the way of more important things! For a team that didn't have much to play for, Everton sure pulled out a memorable one for the ages last weekend at Old Trafford. A 4-4 scoreline usually means a pretty exciting game, but the manner in which the Blues pulled the two goals back with the minutes ticking down.
Today Everton will be back in the friendly confines of Goodison Park, hosting Fulham who they have quite enjoyed playing over the years. So much so that the last time the Cottagers picked up a draw was back in 1959, and have endured loss after loss since then, eighteen times to be precise.
Team News -
It looks like gaffer David Moyes will not be blooding any youngsters despite fervent pleas from Blues fans - with that being the case, we can expect another unchanged lineup for this game. On-loan winger Royston Drenthe remains suspended while Leighton Baines and Jack Rodwell are most likely done for the season. Centreback Sylvain Distin will most likely move over to left back again as Phil Jagielka partners Johnny Heitinga in the middle.
The centerpiece of Fulham's offensive ambitions is actually a midfielder - US star Clint Dempsey has really made his mark in the Premiership this year, his sixteen goals putting him in fourth place on the scorers' charts. Fellow American Bryan Ruiz, Steve Sidwell and Zdenek Grygera are long term absentees while defender Stephen Kelly returned to training and could be in the starting squad. Pavel Pogrebnyak looked fully-fit in scoring last week against Wigan and fellow striker and ex-Merseysider Andy Johnson is also cleared to play.
Keys To The Game -
With just a handful of games left, Moyes biggest challenge remains keeping the squad interested in showing up and playing football. It also seems that with the pressure off, the goalscoring boots have been found as Everton have scored at least twice in their last five Premiership games. Of course, the contributions of Nikica Jelavic upfront cannot be understated - he provides Everton the most consistent goalscoring threat as a single striker since Duncan Ferguson's heydays. Leon Osman and Steven Pienaar provide the width while Marouane Fellaini has been pushing forward with devastating impact as his height and ball control have allowed him to cause havoc in the opponents' box.
Counterpart Martin Jol faces the same challenge - a good run of form has seen his side climb up to ninth, and a win to break the hoodoo at Goodison will propel his squad over both Merseyside teams and into seventh. While Dempsey has been popping up to score from everywhere, Pogrebnyak remains Fulham's talismanic striker and the target for balls from the midfield of Dempsey, Mahamadou Diarra, Moussa Dembele and Damien Duff. Danny Murphy plays the link man between defence and midfield, and how much pressure Fellaini can get on him is going to determine Fulham's overall ball possession.
Match Facts -
- Everton have beaten Fulham ten straight times at Goodison Park.
- The Blues 14 goals in their last five games tops the the 13 goals they scored in the previous seventeen.
- The Toffees still lead the premiership in second half goals, with 71% of their haul coming after the break.
- Fulham's Pogrebnyak has scored six times, from an impressive six shots on target.
- Dempsey also has six goals, in his last eight games.