Premiership: Fulham V West Brom – Tuesday, 4th January

Premier League Tips

 

Fulham V West Brom

Tuesday, 4th January – 20:00 (GMT) – LIVE on SKY SPORTS HD2

For an in-depth preview containing valuable background information such as each team’s respective league statistics, as well as their recent form, simply click on the following link: Fulham V West Brom – SoccerBetting Previews

 

I doubt Roberto Martinez was aware of the fact his team had a woeful record against Fulham in the Premier League. Why would he? Nonetheless, the Italian has inherited a team who for one reason or another find the Cottagers a tricky customer, particularly away from home at Craven Cottage, and while the Baggies all sit and wonder how on earth they’ll better such a dismal head-to-head with one of the Premiership’s mediocre clubs, whilst in the process licking a few wounds following yet another undeserved defeat at the weekend, Fulham will be licking their lips at the prospect of sinking their teeth into a fixture which has produced many a fruitful hour-and-a-half.

I wouldn’t know who Fulham’s most prefered opponent are in the top-flight, but I doubt they’ll boast such a formidable head-to-head over anyone else in the country when it comes to Premier League meetings, certainly not at Craven Cottage. Four previous encounters between the two in West London have all gone Fulham’s way, three of those without shipping a single goal.

Their last clash at the Cottage ended 2-0, obviously in Fulham’s favour, while the time before that, back in 2006, the match ended in a 6-1 drubbing, once again Fulham were the victorious party. A lot has changed since then. For starters, West Brom are a far better side, particularly in the midfield where they are no longer overrun and outfought each and every game, but also Fulham aren’t as prolific. Actually, when have Fulham ever been a tidy outfit in front of goal? Come to think of it, just how bad were the Baggies back in the day to concede six?

While there has been noteable improvements in West Brom under Roberto Di Matteo, with the Baggies rarely overwhelmed and hammered like they were in previous Premiership campaigns, they still have their flaws and at the present time, Matteo’s biggest problem is his side’s lack of form. The Baggies begun well enough, impressively in fact, but have dropped of the pace at such an alarming pace, with the intensity of their play and their overall application nowhere like it was when losing just two of their opening nine games of the season, as well as a surprise forage into the last-eight of the Carling Cup.

A drought is four games without a win is what the Baggies will carry with them to the English capital, and that’s a huge burden, a voodoo or curse if you like, to be carrying around with you. Losing matches you didn’t deserve to lose won’t have helped the flat mood in the dressing room, something Di Matteo has eluded to before his side’s Craven Cottage trek.

On Saturday, New Year’s day, West Brom gave the league leaders a thorougher examination of their title credentials at The Hawthorns. The work rate of the entire team was far better to what we had seen previously, they created chances and were by no means overawed by their glamarous visitors. Had Peter Odemwingie converted his penalty on the hour mark then Roberto Di Matteo will have surely been celebrating some sort of a result come the final whistle, as the score would have been 2-1 in their favour with 30 minutes left to play. As it was, United clung onto their slim advantage and left the Baggies to rue several missed chances in a performance which merited so much more than just post-match compliments.

What will have hurt West Brom the most was how much effort and energy they exherted just a couple days ago, meaning there will be question marks over their energy reserves. And to get nothing for all their industry really was a kick in the teeth.

As for Fulham, well they used up quite a bit of energy as well on New Year’s. They, too, were up against a tasty opponent in the form of Tottenham Hotspur, who were in tip-top shape, yet you wouldn’t of been able to tell which of the two were challenging for honours of the highest calibre and the other struggling just to remain in the division. Unfortunately for Mark Hughes and Fulham, they are the latter although were so impressive at White Hart Lane that most forget they were a team in a desperate state of affairs down near the foot of the table.

Building on their surprise success against Stoke City, where the Cottagers produced arguably their performance of the season to record what was probably their win of the entire year (2010), Fulham made haste of their dire position in the league to really give Spurs a good going over at White Hart Lane. They created chances, possibly should have scored a couple, and were resolute and showed some togetherness and fortitude at the back. It was a performance similar to that which they produced at The Brittania just a few days previous, but it was also an indication that perhaps Fulham are capable of adding some consistency to their game, and just as well in their hour of need, as any further setbacks wouldn’t just make their task of escaping the relegation zone that extra bit harder, but it would also leave Mark Hughes pleading with the Fulham boardroom for more time to turn things around.

Although a loss is a loss, and we understand how this might sound a little contradictive, but Fulham have shown some genuinely encouraging signs of late to suggest they’re capable of mounting a strong enough run in the New Year to ease the threat of relegation. The Baggies were just as impressive against United at the weekend as Fulham were at Spurs, the only difference being it was a game easier than most to get fired up for – even though we doubted their commitment and ability to stick with the Red Devils beforehand.

If we were to throw in back-to-back away defeats for West Brom, as well as four away losses in their last six, with the fact they’ve not kept a single clean sheet away from home all season it really doesn’t make for a strong case for the hosts, Fulham. But we aren’t finished there, as not only is the Baggies’ record at Craven Cottage wretchid to say the least – 4 visits = 4 defeats – Fulham have remained a difficult side to overcome on home soil despite suffering three defeats at the Cottage in then this season. However, two of those were against sides of the highest quality in Man City and Arsenal, and I’m afraid West Brom don’t come close to breaking into that calibre category.

Fulham will need to address some demons when they face up to West Brom on Tuesday, as they were beaten hamsomely by fellow struggler’s West Ham in their last league encounter at the Cottage 3-1, though they’ve shown enough courage and relegation grit and a willingness to dig their manage out of the mess he and the club find themselves in of late to suggest they can produce their second massive win in three games. And if they produce a performance anywhere near the same standard of their last two against Stoke City and Tottenham Hotspur, then we really do envisage only one winner: Fulham.

 


Matt’s Selection(s):

Fulham to WIN – 2.20 WilliamHill

Value Punt(s):

Fulham to WIN to NIL – 3.50 PaddyPower


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