Premier League | Craven Cottage | Sun 30 Mar | 1:30pm
Last week it was Yaya Toure, this week it’s Ross Barkley. Sorry Felix, hope you’re enjoying the Premier League.
When news filtered through of Felix Magath’s appointment at Craven Cottage in February, stories of his hardline training methods began to hit the headlines. Fulham’s players were going to be put through a sadistic training programme to get them super fit. It was going to be hell.
- Man City 5-0 Fulham (Prem)
- Fulham 1-0 Newcastle (Prem)
- Cardiff 3-1 Fulham (Prem)
- Fulham 1-3 Chelsea (Prem)
- WBA 1-1 Fulham (Prem)
- Newcastle 0-3 Everton (Prem)
- Everton 3-2 Swansea (Prem)
- Everton 2-1 Cardiff (Prem)
- Arsenal 4-1 Everton (FAC)
- Everton 1-0 West Ham (Prem)
But the only person who seems to be experiencing any torture is Magath. The German, brought into save the club from relegation, has earned just four points from five games in charge. After Saturday’s 5-0 thumping at title-chasing Manchester City, the Cottagers are bottom of the league, four points from safety.
If Crystal Palace win their game in hand that margin will increase to seven. With just seven games to play, time is running out.
Everton, on the other hand, are hot on the heels of Champions League qualification. Their 3-0 demolition of Newcastle , coupled with Arsenal’s dismal 2-2 draw at home to Swansea, has put them six points behind the Gunners with a game in hand.
When the two teams then meet on April 6, the gap could be even closer with an anxious-looking Arsenal side hosting goal-happy Man City this weekend.
When Everton hosted Fulham earlier in the season, Roberto Martinez’s side romped to a comprehensive 4-1 win. Since that game the Cottagers have conceded 40 more goals in the Premier League, bringing their season total to 70 in 31 games. Expect this record to get worse when Barkley & Co. come to town on Sunday.
Fulham midfielder Scott Parker and £12 million striker Kostas Mitroglou are targeting a return to first-team action after layoffs. Everton defender Phil Jagielka is back to full fitness following a hamstring injury and could be in the squad for the trip to London.
Key battle: Steve Sidwell vs Ross Barkley
It’s hard to look beyond the Englishman after his fine individual goal and virtuoso performance against Newcastle on Tuesday night. In the 22nd minute, with the score goalless, Barkley collected a chest pass from Gerard Deulofeu in his own half and surged 70 yards up the field, powering away from a squadron of pursuers, before driving the ball into the roof of the net. It was simply magnificent.
How is 31-year-old Sidwell going to keep up with the tireless youngster? He toiled away to no avail at Goodison Park in December. Barkley made 60 passes – bettered only by Gareth Barry (61). He attempted 7 dribbles, made 4 tackles and recovered the ball 5 times. It was all action. Sidwell did make 7 tackles – the most on the day - but it wasn’t enough. It was like trying to stop a tsunami with a sandbag.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Everton 4-1 Fulham (PL, Dec 13)
- Fulham 2-1 Everton (LC, Sep 13)
- Everton 1-0 Fulham (PL, Apr 13)
- Fulham 2-2 Everton (PL. Nov 12)
- Everton 4-0 Fulham (PL, Apr 12)
For Magath the key to Fulham’s survival is simple: win their home games and they’re in with a shot. “Nobody expected us to win at Man City, so for me nothing happened to us that will change our situation because we have to win our home games. That’s the most important thing,” he said after the five-goal thumping at the Etihad Stadium. “If we win our home games we can avoid relegation.”
Despite seeing another impressive display from his side at St James’ Park, Martinez is not getting too carried with dreams of ending the season with Champions League qualification.
“(The three points) are really important but that's not the end of the season," he said. "We've been working really hard for the last 10 months and you can see the team is ready to give everything in every game and make every single Evertonian proud. We'll see how many points that gives us. Now we need to refresh and regenerate for Fulham. It'll be a completely different game but we'll have to bring the same intensity."
Facts and figures
- Fulham have lost 12 of their last 15 home matches against top-half teams.
- 9 of Fulham’s last 11 home games have had at least 3 goals.
- 8 of Fulham’s last 10 home games have seen more goals in the second half than the first.
- Everton have drawn the first half in 16 of their last 24 away matches.
- Fulham have lost 8 of 11 matches against Everton since 2008/09 including 6 defeats where they were behind by half-time.
Fulham are playing like a team that’s already down. Everton are in the ascendency. Toffees to win 3-0.