It would be fair to say that Fulham urgently require a maximum haul, preferably sooner rather than later. A number of surprise outcomes on Saturday has left the Cottagers propping up the table heading into Sunday’s bout of fixtures, yet there’s every likelihood of their misery being compounded as they prepare to take on high-flying Manchester City to Craven Cottage.
As a result of Blackburn’s shock win at home to Arsenal and Swansea securing their first win of the season at the Liberty Stadium at the expense of West Brom, Fulham now occupy the basement of the Barclay’s Premier League. Martin Jol’s side are also one of only two teams who are yet to record a league win in 2011/12, although that unwanted honour could be all theirs should Sunderland comply at the Stadium of Light against Stoke the same afternoon.
Critical times then in the West of London. It’s an entirely different complexion up in Manchester, though, where both clubs have hit the ground running, City very much included. The Citizens still have their 100% record in tact after four straight wins – scoring 15 and conceding 3 in the process – and despite the disappointment of only mustering a draw on Tuesday as the club made their long-awaited UEFA Champions League bow against Napoli, the general consensus is that Roberto Mancini’s men will bounce back immediately to winning ways with their fourth Craven Cottage victory in six visits.
The Cottage, though, has been a formidable venue for Fulham, where they’ve lost only one of their last eleven league contests in 2011 – though it must be said that some of the aura has evaporated since the departure of Mark Hughes. A 1-1 draw with FC Twente in the Europa League on Thursday – a match in which Martin Jol fielded several first-team regulars – was Fulham’s third on the spin at home, extending their barren start to the season (excluding those formality Europa League qualifiers).
So Fulham have it all to do against those in-form Mancunians. Personally, I’m not holding out much hope of them halting the Man City express, not even at their spiritual home. Last season City romped to a 4-1 victory in this fixture, taking an unassailable 3-0 lead within 35 minutes, and it isn’t unrealistic to think that they could match, if not better that feat on Sunday against this beleaguered Fulham outfit.
Still, I don’t see too much value in backing the visitors. Although I do like the look of Micah Richards’ odds of netting only his seventh goal for the club. The England full-back gets forward to devastating effect time and time again for City, and already, after just four league appearances this season, has two assists to his name. Only the crossbar stood between him and his first Premiership goal for almost a year last time out against Wigan at home. Looks tremendous value at 16/1!
As for the hosts, they desperately need some invention from somewhere, from someone, and from what I saw at Craven Cottage last weekend, that won’t come from new signing Bryan Ruiz any time soon. One player who did catch the eye in that fixture was ironically Ruiz’s half-time substitute, Belgian forward Moussa Dembele. The 24-year-old made 24 appearances for Fulham last season, netting just three times, but he’s gradually adapted to the hard-knocks style of the Premier League and appears to be growing in confidence with every minute he is out on that pitch.
Dembele is an extremely confident individual who pleads for possession, because he has every confidence in himself that he can make something happen. My one criticism of the forward, other than he clearly doesn’t score regularly enough, is he doesn’t try his luck as often as a player with his ability should. But he definitely has some of the latter – ability – and Jol would be a fool to leave the Belgian inspiration on the bench, as he’s about the only potential match winner in his squad by the looks of things.
Betting Selections (Goalscorers)