Everton have a home tie against Fulham in the Fourth Round of the FA Cup in a rare Friday fixture. While the match is being billed here in the USA as Landon Donovan vs. Clint Dempsey, it could be overshadowed by an in-ground protest being planned by the Blue Union who have been very vocal (and it must be said, unruly too) in their protests against chairman Bill Kenwright.
It's not like Toffees manager David Moyes doesn't have much on his plate as it is. The team has swung between woeful and mediocre in the past few weeks, and while injuries can be blamed to a certain extent, a lot of it has to do with the apparent lack of talent and cohesion within the squad. More after the jump.
Fulham on the other hand come into this tie on the back of a 5-2 walloping of Newcastle, led by a Dempsey hat-trick. Manager Martin Jol will probably field a full strength XI against Everton, like he did in the previous round against Charlton, acknowledging this might be their only shot at silverware this season. Royal Blue Mersey spoke with the excellent Fulham blog Cottagers Confidential regarding the team's aspirations, you can read the rest of that interview here.
The Toffees' list of walking wounded has not had much positive news in recent times. Moyes confirmed that Tony Hibbert is available, and provides much respite to the back four which had no defensive cover. Phil Jagielka, Sylvain Distin, Jack Rodwell, Seamus Coleman and Leon Osman remain out while Ross Barkley has resumed training. Midfielder Diniyar Bilyaletdinov has been transferred back to Russia.
For the visitors, veteran goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer will miss this tie with a back injury. Zdenek Grygera, Moussa Dembele and Orlando Sa will not play either but Steve Sidwell has recovered after limping off at halftime against Newcastle.
Keys To The Game
Dempsey enters the game on a hot streak, and is evidently relishing the freedom Jol has given him in the opposition half. I fully expect that with Hibbert in at right back, Phil Neville will be given the job of shadowing Dempsey every time he crosses the midfield line. Strikers Bobby Zamora and Andy Johnson seem to reserve their best performances for the top teams, it remains to be seen which versions of them show up tomorrow.
For Everton, wing play is going to be very important. If Neville adopts a more defensive role, then Darron Gibson and Marouane Fellaini could be charged with distributing the ball to Donovan on the right and either Victor Anichebe or Royston Drenthe on the left. Fulham are usually strong in the air so an aerial attack might not be to the Toffees' benefit. Besides, when did Louis Saha's perfectly coiffed cranium last come into contact with a ball, never mind score?
- This is the sixth straight time Everton have been drawn to play a Cup fixture at home.
- At Goodison Park, Everton have not lost to Fulham since 1975, a run of ten games.
- Everton have never beaten Fulham in an FA Cup game, this being the fifth meeting.
- Clint Dempsey has two hat-tricks in the last three games he has played for Fulham.
- Fulham have only scored seven goals on their travels away from Craven Cottage this season.
- Both teams are evenly matched with 26 pts in the Premiership, Fulham shading it on goal difference by one.