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Russian international Alexei Smertin could make a surprise return to Fulham’s starting line up for Sunday’s crunch clash with Everton.

The midfielder missed last weekend’s draw with Blackburn and Roy Hodgson feared he could miss up to a fortnight’s football after straining his back. But Smertin is available to add his tenacity and energy to Fulham’s midfield in a match the manager says his side simply have to win.

Hodgson will be without Philippe Christanval and Jari Litmanen, who are both nursing muscle problems. He is set to stick with Kasey Keller in goal after the American veteran was preferred to Antti Niemi at Ewood Park.