Everton v Fulham
Sunday February 14, 19:00
Live on BT Sport
Could classic cup tie leave a mark?
Currently seventh in the Premier League, with games in hand over all the teams above them, and through to the quarter-finals of the F.A Cup for the first time in five years after a quite incredible 5-4 victory over Spurs on Wednesday night, Carlos Ancelotti’s Everton are enjoying a successful season so far.
The Toffees trail the defending champions, Liverpool (in fourth place) by just three points with two games in hand so a top-four finish and a Champions League spot has to be a realistic target but the market isn’t convinced. Everton can be backed at 8.07/1 for a Top 4 Finish and if they don’t make it, it will down to their home form.
Goodison Park is a fortress most seasons but the Toffees have been less than prolific there this season, winning just four of ten. They’ve won 23 of their 37 points away from home and they’ve lost just twice on their travels.
Manchester United and Leeds both left Goodison with all three points in November and West Ham and Newcastle beat Everton on their own turf in January. The Toffees haven’t won a Premier League game since before Christmas and that run may continue after Wednesday’s bruising encounter.
Having been second best for much of the first half against Spurs, a three-goal blitz just before half time saw them go from 1-0 down to 3-1 up in the space of eight minutes. The humdinger of a cup tie eventually finished 4-4 before Bernard made it 5-4 in extra time but such an incredible game is bound to have left a mark, as confirmed by Ancelotti in Friday’s press conference.
“After two hours against Tottenham, we are not in the best condition.”
Dominic Calvert Lewin is definitely out of Sunday’s game after picking up a hamstring injury and although not declared unfit, and not even an injury doubt, fellow star striker, Richarlison, looked absolutely shattered at the end of Wednesday’s match.
Rallying Fulham still look doomed
Although Fulham have won just twice all season and not since November, they’re proving difficult to beat under Scott Parker of late and they haven’t been beaten away from home since the runaway leaders, Manchester City, defeated them 2-0 at the start of December.
The Cottagers have lost only three of their last 11 Premier League games (all at home) and during that spell they’ve conceded just ten goals but it’s not the defence that’s the problem – goals have been hard to come by.
Since their shock 2-1 win away at Leicester at the end of November, the Cottagers have scored just six times in 12 Premier League games and it’s something that must change if they’re to climb out of the relegation places according to Parker.
“We’re right up there with the numbers we’re producing. The alarm bells aren’t going in my head, but I understand we haven’t been clinical enough. That tide has to turn.”
Parker’s alarm bells may not be going off just yet but given they’re eight points from safety and scoring at a rate of 0.5 goals per game, maybe he just forgot to set the clock. Fulham are now 1.364/11 to be relegated and that price doesn’t look wrong.
Record books point to a home win
Given their lack of goals and the fact that they haven’t won since November, it’s hard enough to make a case for the visitors at less than 7/2 but a look at their record at Everton makes it almost impossible.
Fulham have never won an away league match against Everton in 27 attempts (D4 L23) and the Toffees have won all 14 Premier League matches played at Goodison Park. That’s the best 100% winning record of any team versus an opponent on home soil in Premier League history.
Everton at odds-against makes far more appeal but the absence of Calvert Lewin is a worry and so too is the possibility of a fatigued side after Wednesday’s exploits.
The draw at around 3.55/2 is tempting given Fulham have drawn eight of their last 11and each of their last four on the road and that Everton have drawn two of their last four but their appears to be a far safer option in the side markets…
A scarcity of goals can reap rewards
Only two of Fulham’s last 12 Premier League games have seen more than two goals scored and there have been less than three goals scored in five of Everton’s last six Premier League home games so at a shade of odds-on, Under in the Over/Under 2.5 Goals market looks like the way to go.
It’s hard to imagine a fatigued Everton coming out with all guns blazing and Fulham are finding goals hard to come by so a low scoring encounter looks highly likely.