Leighton Baines says Everton are glad to be facing a Liverpool side without Luis Suarez in next week's Merseyside derby. The Reds may have smashed six past Newcastle on Saturday without their banned striker but Baines still believes they are a different prospect in the Uruguayan's absence.
Everton made hard work of beating Fulham 1-0 – their 20th successive league win over the Cottagers at Goodison Park – maintaining a five-point lead over their near-neighbours. Victory on Sunday at Anfield, where Everton have not won since 1999, would give them an unassailable lead over their city rivals with two matches left.
And that would mean the Toffees finishing above Liverpool in successive seasons for the first time since the Reds were promoted back to the top flight in 1962.
"Yes, we're glad we don't have to face Luis Suarez because he's a top player and he has done so much for Liverpool this season," said England full-back Baines. "If they had been missing him this season they probably wouldn't be where they are in the league at the moment. He will be a big loss for them."
Steven Pienaar's 16th-minute strike was the culmination of one of the few moves of real quality against Fulham, whose manager Martin Jol is already looking to next season.
"We have to see which players will stay," said the Dutchman, who lost striker Dimitar Berbatov to a calf injury which may yet rule him out for the remainder of the campaign.
"We have a few players out of contract and we have four or five players on loan so that is a decision we have to make."