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Matchday 6: Fulham vs. Everton

25 September 2010

After a rough-and-tumble stretch with matches against Wolves, Blackburn and Stoke, the Cottagers get back into two comfort zones on Saturday: the friendly confines of Craven Cottage and an opponent that actually plays football.

Step right up! You're the next contestant on "Play Striker for Fulham!"

On the surface, this appears to be a great time to host the Toffees, who are mired in 19th place on just two points through five matches and are having all sorts of trouble generating offense. Fulham has been solid at home again this season, drawing with Manchester United and beating Wolves with late goals, and the home team in this series has won 17 of the 18 league matches over the past nine seasons. That said, Fulham has its own well-documented injury issues up top, so I don’t expect this match to be easy.

Without very many other options at this point, expect to see Clint Dempsey and Zoltan Gera up top, with the healthy-again Damien Duff and Simon Davies flanking the normal central midfield pairing of Danny Murphy and Dickson Etuhu. Perhaps Diomansy Kamara will be fit enough to provide some punch off the bench, if the Cottagers once again find themselves needing a late goal.

Really, it will be interesting to see what Fulham would do if they get a lead. The Cottagers have only led for a total of about 35 minutes all season. They have rescued a league-leading six points from trailing positions, but you can’t rely on late-game heroics to rescue you every week; Fulham already has three result-altering goals in the final seven minutes of matches this season.

Even without the injured Louis Saha, Jack Rodwell and (probably) Tim Cahill, Everton has a lot of talent. Marouane Fellaini, Steven Pianaar and Mikael Arteta comprise a central core that most Prem sides would envy, and in American No. 1 Tim Howard, Everton also has an above-average goalkeeper.

I know Fulham’s scraping together an attack force, but I think form will hold here. Everton is bound to wake up at some point, but it won’t happen at the Cottage.

Prediction: Fulham 2, Everton 1

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