Everton host Fulham in the first of four crucial matches at Goodison Park left this season.
The Toffees’ home form since Sean Dyche’s arrival has been hugely impressive, with three wins and a draw in four matches at the famous old ground so far and it’s possible that their results at home could be the difference between survival and relegation.
However, the Cottagers will be no pushover, having enjoyed an unexpectedly impressive campaign under former Everton boss Marco Silva.
Nevertheless, they find themselves in a miserable run of form, having lost their last five matches in all competitions and are without top scorer Aleksandar Mitrovic, who is suspended.
Sean Dyche’s selection dilemmas
There are several intriguing line-up decisions for Dyche to make for this match.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin is back in full training and potentially available for selection while in contrast, Seamus Coleman has been ruled out with ‘a niggly hamstring injury.’
It would be a risky decision to plunge Calvert-Lewin straight back into the starting XI although he may be given a chance to make an impact off the bench, especially if the Toffees end up needing a late goal.
Meanwhile, Coleman’s absence could mean Nathan Patterson’s first start in the senior team since coming off injured in his side’s 1-4 defeat against Brighton on January 3, although Ben Godfrey could end up being moved into that right-back spot with Vitalii Mykolenko being brought in to play on the left.
One to watch – Ellis Simms
Ellis Simms was given only his third ever Everton start in the 2-0 defeat at Manchester United last weekend – a sign that his memorable late equaliser at Stamford Bridge last month has nudged him ahead of Neal Maupay in the pecking order.
He failed to impress in 70 minutes at Old Trafford, most notably missing a gilt-edged opportunity in the first half.
It remains to be seen whether he will be given another chance against the West London outfit instead of Maupay or Demarai Gray.
If indeed he is given the nod once again, coming up against a team bereft of confidence in his first ever start at Goodison could be exactly what the 22-year-old needs to ensure his head doesn’t dip after a difficult last game.
One to watch – Bobby De Cordova-Reid
Bobby De Cordova-Reid could be the catalyst for revitalising Fulham’s form and leading to them a late charge for the European places.
The 30-year-old has appeared in all but one of his side’s league matches this season, weighing in with four goals and one assist.
This makes him the second-top scorer for the Cottagers behind only Mitrovic and with the Serbian unavailable to play until his side’s penultimate match of the season, this could be a big opportunity for the Jamaican international to step up in his place.
De Cordova-Reid has scored against the Toffees once before, in a 3-2 loss for his side at Craven Cottage in November 2020.
A source of confidence for Everton supporters going into this match will be the fact that Fulham’s record at Goodison Park is abysmal, with the West London outfit winning just once in the league in 28 attempts; their most recent visit in February 2021.
On the other hand, teams have a knack of ending their dismal runs of form against the Toffees and Silva will be eager to get one over on the club who sacked him almost three-and-a-half years ago.
Will Everton’s recently-discovered home form be enough to get them over the line against their former gaffer?