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Match Preview: Fulham Vs. Everton

The Toffees know a win at Craven Cottage is essential if they're to keep their Champions League dream alive

Richard Heathcote

This time last month it was difficult to envisage Fulham vs. Everton as a game of any real consequence, at least to the Toffees. Looking destined for a Europa League spot at best, and a 7th place finish at worst (or should those be the other way around?) Everton's season looked to have fizzled out. What a difference four straight wins - and some slip-ups from Arsenal - can make.

Now Roberto Martinez's side have their destiny in their own hands: win every one of their remaining games and they will qualify for the Champions League. Of course that's not going to happen, but a win against bottom of the table Fulham is a must if the Blues are to challenge Arsenal, who visit Goodison Park next weekend, for fourth spot.

Team News

After being rested for the midweek game against Newcastle United, Phil Jagielka looks set to return at the heart of Everton's defence, despite some classy displays by John Stones in his absence. It's a testament to the quality of Stones' performances over the last month that the Blues skipper has hardly been missed, but Martinez is unlikely to keep Jagielka in reserve if he has regained match fitness.

The only other selection issue facing the Toffees boss will be who to play at the head of Everton's midfield. Leon Osman and Gerard Deulofeu were both excellent against Newcastle, the former scoring Everton's third and the latter being involved in all three goals, but Martinez may be tempted to recall either Aiden McGeady, who impressed against Swansea City, or Kevin Mirallas. Mirallas has struggled for consistency in his second campaign at Everton, but he scored in the reverse fixture against Fulham and won't be lacking motivation after being dropped for the trip to St James' Park.

Fulham are still without Scott Parker and January signing Kostas Mitroglu through injury, as well as Fernando Amorebieta who is suspended, but Ashkan Dejagah is available once again. Former Evertonian John Heitinga is in line to start against his former side, having left Goodison Park in January.

Keys to the Game

Everton's recent winning run has seen them dominating possession less than they were earlier in the season, with the trade off being that the Toffees have been far more lethal in front of goal. With Romelu Lukaku and Ross Barkley on form, and Fulham's defensive record the worst in the league by a distance, goals are very likely. But the Cottagers are also frequent scorers themselves - last week's 5-0 defeat to Manchester City was the first time in seven matches that they had been successfully shut out.

In all likelihood, firepower will be the deciding factor. If Everton's forward line - potentially featuring the red hot Gerard Deulofeu - is able to fashion a comfortable lead then it's unlikely that Felix Magath's side will have the ability to respond. If chances are missed however, then a slender lead is a dangerous thing, as the Blues' last visit to Craven Cottage demonstrated.

Match Facts

  • Everton have only won two of their 12 Premier League visits to Craven Cottage (L8, D2, W2), though they have lost only once in their last five trips.
  • In contrast, Fulham have never won away at Everton in 26 league visits.