Fulham take on Everton at Loftus Road this weekend hoping to overcome a recent slump in form. The two teams will face each other again in three weeks after being drawn together in the fourth round of the FA Cup.
The Cottagers had been enjoying some great success this season, but over the last couple of weeks this has tailed off and they have recorded four defeats in five games and narrowly avoided defeat to Third Division side Cheltenham in the FA Cup.
“We have not been playing particularly well over the last four or five games. We were outstanding against Southampton but otherwise our form has been a bit indifferent,” said manager Chris Coleman prior to their midweek defeat at Middlesbrough.
“We were certainly poor at Aston Villa, especially in the second half. But all teams go through stages when they aren’t firing on all cylinders and I’m confident we can get back to where we were.
“We have a strong dressing room – they’re a great bunch of players – so we’ll get through it. They’ve been a different class for me. A few of them are out of form right now, but it’s up to me to make sure they start performing again.”
Everyone knows that Fulham are capable of more than they are actually producing at the moment, after all, the league table does not lie. They are still in seventh and Coleman constantly reminds the fans and the players that they should not forget that they could just as easily be battling to avoid relegation, just as they were at the end of last season.
The Welshman has vowed to ring the changes though if things don’t improve. They are playing at home this weekend, and that will no doubt give them a boost. They’ve won half of the fixtures played at Loftus Road – so it seems to be serving them well even if it isn’t their real home.
Lee Clark and Luis Boa Morte will return after injury and suspension respectively, and Coleman wants them to share the goal-scoring responsibility with last weekend’s two-goal hero Louis Saha, while at the same time he has urged his players to put all the week’s transfer speculation behind them and focus on winning the points.
Everton are currently enjoying the best form of their season so far and have taken 11 points from their last six league games, as well as seeing off First Division leaders Norwich in the FA Cup. Big things were expected from the Toffees after their tremendous success last season – but it never really happened for them until now.
Will they be able to turn it around now, and build on their recent success and finish in the top half of the table? Well only time and another 18 games will tell, but another good performance against Arsenal as they earned a 1-1 draw suggests they can go on to better things in 2004.
David Moyes revealed: “Our level of confidence is rising week by week and I hope that will be the case now right to the end of the season.
“I think there is a new confidence, particularly after the way we were playing a month ago. This season we have started the new year very well, much better than we did last season, and I believe we can continue in that vein.”