Everton-Fulham Preview

The Associated Press

Everton may be on the verge of their longest winning streak in over 11 years, but they're eying a spot in the top four.

Overlooking relegation-threatened Fulham could cost them that chance.

With a visit by Arsenal looming, the Toffees will try to continue their dazzling stretch and avoid a letdown against the Cottagers on Sunday.

Everton (16-9-5) have outscored opponents 9-3 while winning four straight matches, pounding Newcastle 3-0 on the road last weekend.

Another victory on Sunday would give the Toffees their longest winning streak since a six-game run in 2002. But Everton are aiming for a much loftier goal - a spot in the top four in order to at least reach the qualifying stages of Champions League for the first time since 2005.

They enter this weekend fifth in the Premier League, six points behind Arsenal with a game in hand.

Everton welcome the Gunners to Goodison Park next weekend.

"We have got to play some of the teams above us but we are vying for it (the top four) ourselves," midfielder Leon Osman told the team's official website. "We are the outsiders but we have to keep ticking along and see how close we can get.

"It is important to keep the momentum going, but it's all about concentrating on the next game."

A visit to Craven Cottage could pose a problem since Everton are 2-2-10 in their last 14 visits in all competitions. That includes a 2-1 defeat in the third round of the Capital One Cup on Sept. 24.

Everton had little trouble against them at home Dec. 14, winning 4-1 with Osman getting on the score sheet.

Fulham, though, are at the bottom of the league and mired in a 1-3-8 stretch in all competitions, while totaling nine goals. They didn't even manage a shot on target while being romped 5-0 by Manchester City last weekend.

"We just need to forget about the Man City game," midfielder Alex Kacaniklic told the team's official website. "To lose 5-0 isn't something you want and it was very disappointing.

"But we just need to move on and look to the game against Everton. We have seven games left and we need to fight for every point."

Production from Steve Sidwell would surely help. The midfielder's seven goals lead Fulham, but he has one in 11 matches and none in the past six.

Romelu Lukaku is giving Everton a strong presence up top, scoring four goals in five matches, netting one last weekend. The Belgium international also set up Osman's tally to complete the rout of Newcastle.

Still, a strong run of performances by fit-again Ross Barkley has been a welcome surprise. The 20-year-old midfielder has a goal in each of the last two games, giving him six in his major breakthrough season in the Premier League.

Barkley, however, put on a sensational display last weekend, dribbling from his own end and through the Newcastle defense before scoring what could be considered one of the best goals of the season.

"It takes a special type of player. I think it was a unique goal that only Ross can score," manager Roberto Martinez said. "With the technical ability and the physicality that you need to travel that distance, it is a unique trait of Ross."

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