Everton V Fulham At Goodison Park : LIVE

14 December 2013 09:00
Everton V Fulham - view commentary, squad, and statistics of the game live.

Martinez pleased to pass test

Everton manager Roberto Martinez believes his side have passed their test against the top sides "with flying colours" but now wants his players to maintain their standards.

Last week the Toffees won at Old Trafford for the first time in 21 years and then followed that up with an impressive 1-1 draw at leaders Arsenal in a game they dominated for long periods.

But having raised their game for two of the bigger names, Martinez is wary there may be a slight drop off when Fulham visit Goodison Park.

"We have been on a real high," he said.

"As difficult as it can be to go to Old Trafford and the Emirates and perform it is difficult to maintain your standards when you come back home and you are playing a game where the expectations are going to be really high.

"It (last week) was a real test and I think we passed it with flying colours, which gives you an inner strength and belief which we need to develop for the demanding fixture list over Christmas."

It is a crucial period for every club at this time of year but for Everton, one point outside the top four, it is even more significant as three of their next four matches are at home to the Cottagers, Sunderland and Southampton.

That is why Martinez will not underestimate Fulham, who received a lift when Rene Meulensteen took over after Martin Jol's departure.

"We are excited about the performances we have had so far. We have four games now, three at home, and that is the only focus we should have as a football club," said the Spaniard.

"I think we have created a very consistent level throughout the season.

"When you have been able to get through to nearly halfway with just one defeat it shows we are carrying momentum.

"We all know this Fulham side will be tough opposition. In their last two performances they were completely different the way they approached the game, full of energy, and they have been galvanised by Rene Meulensteen.

"Rene is someone I have followed for a long time. He is someone who has been an innovative coach.

"He has always made a difference in what he has done, whether it be as a skills coach or working with the youth set up he has always brought different angles.

"He can bring a lot to Fulham."

Everton midfielder James McCarthy is suspended after accumulating five bookings this season. Leon Osman, a substitute for last weekend's draw at Arsenal, is the most likely replacement although youngster Ross Barkley could be asked to drop slightly deeper.

Defender Tony Hibbert picked up a slight knee injury in training and will not be fit until next week while left-back Leighton Baines is realistically at least 10 days away from recovering from a broken toe.

Meulensteen wants his team to cash in on their improved form by inflicting a first home Premier League defeat on Everton.

The Fulham head coach has injected some much-needed steel and sparkle since succeeding Jol, culminating in an encouraging 2-0 win against Aston Villa at Craven Cottage last weekend which followed a spirited defeat against Tottenham.

Now Meulensteen reckons Fulham can start climbing away from the relegation zone, starting by making a spot of history.

"It is a strong motivation for us," said Meulensteen.

"You should always prepare yourself to win home or away. Depending on who you are up against you have to be realistic. It's a challenge but more important for us is to kick on from what we have achieved in the last two home games."

The statistics, however, are not encouraging. Everton have won 12 home games against Fulham, more than against any other Premier League opponent, and have not lost any of their seven home league games so far this season.

Fulham, meanwhile, have lost five of their last six league away games and have failed to score in all those defeats. On top of that, they have lost their last 20 matches in a row at Goodison Park, the top flight's longest-ever losing streak at a particular ground.

Meulensteen, who earned his reputation working alongside Sir Alex Ferguson as a coach at Manchester United, is delighted with the way Fulham have responded to his managerial style since the departure of Jol. And that includes striker Dimitar Berbatov, who Meulensteen knew well in his days at Old Trafford.

Meulensteen said: "I have known him (Berbatov) for many years, I have worked with him for a long, long time and football will always be about opinions. The proof is in the performances on the pitch and so far I can only be pleased with how it has been going.

"The players have responded tremendously well and that gives us a lot of confidence to go into this game against Everton.

"Every manager has his own style. My style is a mixture of where I come from in Holland, based on good possessional play but with an attacking intent. I have spent many times working alongside Sir Alex Ferguson and it wasn't any different so hopefully in time to come I can blend that style into the Fulham team, but that takes a bit of time.

"In the Christmas period, we have Norwich away, Hull away and West Ham and the cup game against Norwich. That is a challenging time. That's when you really need to utilise the qualities of the squad.

"It will (stretch them to the limit.) You need to be picking the right teams for those games."

Striker Darren Bent has recovered from a slight hamstring problem and is available for the match at Goodison Park, while defender Fernando Amorebieta (hamstring) could also return to the squad.

Source: DSG