It’s been a stunning start to the season for both Fulham and Everton, as two of the Premier League’s regular over-achievers are once again maximising the resources at their disposal, sitting seventh and fifth respectively after nine games.
Without last season’s distraction of an early-starting Europa League campaign, Fulham have clearly pushed on, combining the solidity they showed to finish ninth in 2011/12 with a flair-filled attack thanks to Martin Jol’s astute summer signings of Dimitar Berbatov and Mladen Petric.
It’s also a Europe-free season for David Moyes’ men and that’s arguably been a major factor in them avoiding their usual sluggish start, with Marouane Fellaini and Nikica Jelavic on top form and helping them to beat the likes of Manchester United.
The bwin bookmakers have found the two sides almost impossible to separate for this weekend’s clash at Craven Cottage, with Everton the narrowest of favourites at 8/5, Fulham at 33/20 and the draw at 23/10.
At the heart of Fulham’s great run is, as ever, their home form, with a late, late defeat to champions Manchester City the only blemish on an otherwise perfect record on their own patch.
All three of their wins at the Cottage thus far were to nil and it’s 17/5 for a repeat, though they will have to go some to stop Everton from scoring for the first time this campaign and 3/5 for both sides to score looks the smarter option.
In fact, given that the two sides have averaged over 3.5 goals per game so far this season, another goalfest might be in store and it’s 2/1 for another four-goal-plus game.
Funnily enough, last season’s two encounters both featured exactly four goals but Moyes will have happier memories of them than Jol as the Toffees secured 3-1 and 4-0 victories.
However, given the extra firepower Fulham now boast, it’s hard to see the Merseysiders enjoying such a straightforward afternoon on the banks of the Thames.
With both sides on form, it’s going to be tight and 13/10 for either side to win by a one-goal margin looks good value.
But with the attacking fluidity that the Berbatov-led Cottagers have shown and the emotional hangover for Everton following a thrilling Merseyside derby, I fancy Fulham to do just enough to claim all three points.
Extending the theory that there will be little to choose between the teams, backing Fulham to win by that one-goal margin – or in other words, the draw selection in the 0-1 handicap market – could prove the best option of all.