Everton host Fulham tonight in the FA Cup, with neither team enjoying quite as successful a season as they might have hoped for. David Moyes admitted last night that Everton had "not played well enough", while Martin Jol conceded that his Fulham side were reliant on Clint Dempsey.
Both clubs have recorded 26 points from 22 league games this season, leaving them 10 points behind sixth-placed Newcastle United, and both might have harboured ambitions of qualifying for Europe through the league, but are left with the FA Cup as their main priority.
There is growing discontent among some Everton fans, with increasing numbers calling for chairman Bill Kenwright to leave the club, and widespread frustration at a lack of investment. Moyes yesterday admitted that the season was not going well but tried to deflect criticism away from the boardroom and on to himself.
"The only negativity there is is because of how the team play," the Everton manager said. "We have not played well enough. It is nothing to do with the board of directors or the chairman, it is to do with me and the team. We have got to do better on the pitch. If the team plays better, it lifts the mood and people change. We need to perform better and win more often. If we do that it will change everything. Winning football games is always the answer so I will take responsibility for that."
Moyes was pleased to be facing another Premier League opponent at Goodison in the fourth round, as he hopes to maintain high standards from his players. "It is a Premier League tie and that keeps the players' mentality levels up," he said. "The attitude level has to be right. They are up against players of very similar ability and they understand the games are tight. It is important to win. It is a last chance for us to win a cup competition this year and we want to get through to the next round."
Jol's Fulham have had a longer season than Everton, given their participation in the Europa League which started in June, but now find themselves in a similar position. For all of their unpredictability, the goals of Dempsey have been reliable: he has scored two hat-tricks in his last three games.
Jol acknowledged yesterday that Fulham have relied on their American midfielder for goals, following Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard's suggestion that stopping Dempsey meant stopping Fulham. "Hopefully someone else can score if they try and stop Clint," Jol said. "We have goals from other places. But I can't deny that Clint has been the difference for us this year and in previous years. He was our top scorer before."
Dempsey will be without his midfield partner Moussa Dembélé, who is struggling with a hip injury. David Stockdale will continue in goal with Mark Schwarzer still absent.
Moyes is yet to decide whether to recall the fit-again Tony Hibbert in defence or stick with Shane Duffy. "Shane has done really well in the games and it is terrific for the boy," he said.