Fulham seek end to Goodison hoodoo
Rene Meulensteen wants his team to cash in on their improved form by inflicting a first home Barclays Premier League defeat on Everton.
The Fulham head coach has injected some much-needed steel and sparkle since succeeding Martin Jol, culminating in an encouraging 2-0 win against Aston Villa at Craven Cottage last weekend which followed a spirited defeat against Tottenham.
Now Meulensteen reckons Fulham can start climbing away from the relegation zone, starting by making a spot of history.
"It is a strong motivation for us," said Meulensteen.
"You should always prepare yourself to win home or away. Depending on who you are up against you have to be realistic. It's a challenge but more important for us is to kick on from what we have achieved in the last two home games."
The statistics, however, are not encouraging. Everton have won 12 home games against Fulham, more than against any other Premier League opponent, and have not lost any of their seven home league games so far this season.
Fulham, meanwhile, have lost five of their last six league away games and have failed to score in all those defeats. On top of that, they have lost their last 20 matches in a row at Goodison Park, the top flight's longest-ever losing streak at a particular ground.
Meulensteen, who earned his reputation working alongside Sir Alex Ferguson as a coach at Manchester United, is delighted with the way Fulham have responded to his managerial style since the departure of Jol. And that includes striker Dimitar Berbatov, who Meulensteen knew well in his days at Old Trafford.
Meulensteen said: "I have known him (Berbatov) for many years, I have worked with him for a long, long time and football will always be about opinions. The proof is in the performances on the pitch and so far I can only be pleased with how it has been going.
"The players have responded tremendously well and that gives us a lot of confidence to go into this game against Everton.
"Every manager has his own style. My style is a mixture of where I come from in Holland, based on good possessional play but with an attacking intent. I have spent many times working alongside Sir Alex Ferguson and it wasn't any different so hopefully in time to come I can blend that style into the Fulham team, but that takes a bit of time.
"In the Christmas period, we have Norwich away, Hull away and West Ham and the cup game against Norwich. That is a challenging time. That's when you really need to utilise the qualities of the squad.
"It will (stretch them to the limit). You need to be picking the right teams for those games."
Striker Darren Bent has recovered from a slight hamstring problem and is available for the Everton match and Meulensteen insists he has instilled a culture of commitment in the squad in his short time at Craven Cottage.
Meulensteen said: "I have been very happy with everyone's contribution so far. The training has been excellent. The application has been fantastic. They are throwing themselves into what I throw at them.
"The basic ingredients for any performance are based on work rate and commitment. If that's not there you can be the best players in the world but you won't get results. That's what I wanted to establish first.
"You have different players with different qualities and you have to utilise all of them to the best of their capabilities."