Everton will attempt to revive their flagging season when they take on Fulham on Sunday looking end a run of three successive defeats.
The mood after this latest international break is very different to the previous one in October, where the Toffees resumed domestic action boasting a 100% record in all competitions.
Sadly, things went very wrong very quickly, though as Carlo Ancelotti has been widely preaching, it is wise not to get too carried away with both a run of wins or defeats.
All of that cannot be pinned on Richarlison’s three-game suspension, though his return is most welcome. The defence is also a concern, with no clean sheet since the opening day of the season and 11 goals shipped in their last five matches.
The third international break of an already congested season meant Ancelotti was unable to work with the majority of the squad over the past fortnight. Let’s hope some time away from Finch Farm was just what the team needed to put that rocky run behind them.
It certainly hasn’t been dull at Craven Cottage in recent years. Two Wembley play-off victories bookend a disastrous 2018-19 Premier League campaign, which saw them win just two of their first 20 matches on route to a 19th-place finish, despite spending in excess of £100m in the transfer market that summer.
Boss Scott Parker has tried a different approach this time, showing more faith with the squad that finished fourth in the Championship before overcoming west London rivals Brentford in the play-off final.
It’s hardly been a roaring success so far, though there have been signs of improvement in recent weeks. After losing their first four league games and conceding 11 goals, the Cottagers have taken four points from their next four games while conceding just four.
That haul would have been five points had Ademola Lookman not given us a contender for penalty miss of the decade against West Ham last week (now I’ve written this, watch him score a wondergoal on Sunday).
It is a stat that is wheeled out every time these two teams meet but I’m going with it anyway: This is the most one-sided fixture in the Premier League when it comes to home wins, with the home side winning 23 of the 28 meetings. Indeed all of Fulham’s all-time wins over Everton have come at Craven Cottage.
Fulham 2-0 Everton - 13 April 2019
Fulham had lost nine games in a row when they last took on Everton in April 2019, with the Toffees heading to Craven Cottage on the back of three straight wins. Almost inevitably, the Toffees lost 2-0.
- Manchester United (H) Lost 3-1
- Newcastle (A) Lost 2-1
- Southampton (A) Lost 2-0
- Liverpool (H) Drew 2-2
- Brighton (H) Won 4-2
- West Ham (A) Lost 1-0
- West Brom (H) Won 2-0
- Crystal Palace (H) Lost 2-1
- Sheffield United (A) Drew 1-1
- Wolves (A) Lost 1-0
Carlo Ancelotti confirmed defender Seamus Coleman is absent after he suffered a recurrence of hamstring injury while on international duty with the Republic of Ireland.
Richarlison returned from his international duty with Brazil unscathed and will return after his three-game ban. Fabian Delph, Allan and James Rodriguez are also available, while Jean-Philippe Gbamin is only 2-3 weeks away from his long awaited return.
What they said
Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti: “We didn’t lose [the past three games] because Richarlison was not there,” said Ancelotti.
“If he was a defender, I can say, ‘Okay we lost power in defence’.
“He is a striker and the problem we had was, we didn’t defend properly in the past three games.
“We want to have a reaction, we want to come back to play well, as we did at the start of the season
“There will be pressure on us and there has to be because we didn’t do well in the past three games.
“But Richarlison is really important for us, a top player.”
Fulham boss Scott Parker: “Carlo Ancelotti is an incredible coach. His CV and what he’s done in the game as a manager speaks for itself, so it’s not a surprise in any way that he’s gone in at Everton and is doing as well as they are.
“They’ve got a manager there who’s world class. Likewise with their squad of players, there’s some fantastic football players.
“I think they’ve invested and bought very well in the summer. They’ve got a real good strength and balance in terms of what they’re about.”
A relatively kind run of pictures in the next few weeks gives Everton the ideal opportunity to revive their season. That said, if they play anything like they did in recent games then their slide down the table is only going to continue.
Fulham have improved in recent weeks but they still look a side likely to spend much of the season near the foot of the table. Everton will only have themselves to blame if they don’t pick up all three points.