Our experts assess the key battles in Saturday's contest.
Everton return to Merseyside this weekend aiming to inflict a 21st successive Goodison Park defeat on Fulham.
The Cottagers travel to north buoyed by their recent 2-0 win against Aston Villa, but the Blues have been invincible at The Grand Old Lady in the Premier League this calendar year and are now just three matches away from going through 2013 unbeaten at home in the top flight.
Ahead of the clash, we asked Blues icon Graeme Sharp and sports reporter Jake Murtagh of Trinity Mirror to assess the battles likely to have a big impact on Saturday’s fixture…
BATTLE UP FRONT
Sharpy says: “In terms of ability, Berbatov’s got everything you want. In the last few games he’s looked more interested and he’s obviously scoring goals as well, so he’ll be a big threat. With Romelu, I think we tend to forget what a young boy he is. He’s still learning the game and I think he would be the first to admit there are still things he has to improve on. He’s a totally different player to Berbatov - he’s all about power and pace which he has in abundance. We want to get him on the goalscoring trail as quickly as possible.”
Murtagh says: “Berbatov will be massive. He’s had a terrible season - one goal in ten before Jol got sacked. He came out and said he wants to leave in January and fans would have been happy to see the back of him. However, Meulensteen’s come in and has somehow brought the best out of him again and Dimi has responded with two match-winning displays. I know they didn’t win at Spurs but he really was back to his best and he was brilliant against Villa as well. If Fulham want to stay up they have to keep hold of him - without him they’re going to struggle for goals.”
TUSSLE ON THE TOUCHLINE
Sharpy says: “Steven is a fabulous footballer - great feet, great awareness, great ability and he can spot a pass. People wondered if he could come back better than when he left us and I think he has. I think he’s come into a run of form as he had injuries last year which curtailed him a little bit, but now this season he’s been fabulous for us. The last two games, at Old Trafford and the Emirates, he’s been awesome.”
Murtagh says: “Riether been very sturdy since he came to the club last year. He’s not spectacular and a bit of an unsung hero really. He’s solid and he gets forward well too. He should have enough in his locker to cope with Pienaar, although he was the player who got sent off against United for his stamp on Januzaj so he can be a bit of gamble.”
ENGINE ROOM INDUSTRY
Sharpy says: “This is a difficult one. Parker throughout his career has been the more ‘buzzy’ type, getting round players’ feet, making things happen and snapping at tackles. Gareth has probably got more quality when it comes to passing and keeping things going. He’s ideal in the way Roberto wants us to play - I think Gareth Barry has been one of Everton’s top players this season, if not the best. Likewise, Scott Parker has been a great pro and he’ll have a big influence on how the game will finish. He will drive his team on and he leads by example.”
Murtagh says: “Parker makes Fulham tick - he’s like the Danny Murphy of old. Everything comes through him. If Barry can stop him playing it will cut off Fulham’s supply and that will be very important. Likewise, Parker can break up play and cut off Everton’s supply. I think this one is all about who turns up on the day.”