Fulham host Manchester City this Saturday on a 3pm kick off, and will be endearing to halt the Manchester side and their dangerous run of results. Fulham on the other hand have one win in eight games in the league, so there is a high contrast in the two teams forms.
That one win in eight games means that Fulham are firm relegation candidates sitting 19th in the league, especially since the other seven games were all losses. They come into this match on the back of a 4 – 1 loss to Everton with their consolation goal coming from a Berbatov penalty. Indeed this is a side in transition. Fulham’s once admiral squad and strong home form seem to have both been diminished, and now under Rene Meulensteen they are striving to turn themselves back into the strong Premier League side they once were. The January transfer window should help in this regard, but until then they will have to make do with the squad they have and try to find a boost in morale from somewhere. City will be unlikely to give it to them and so Fulham face a tough challenge.
Manchester City may be the in form team in the league, at least in terms of the power of their performances, but there is still some bad news for them. Sergio Aguero has been ruled out for roughly 8 weeks and as their star player we should certainly expect that to have an impact on City. Lucky for them they have an array of attacking talent ready to step in and fill his shoes, but it is a blow nonetheless. The Sky Blues come into this game having put in an utterly dominant display against league leaders Arsenal. They may have conceded 3 goals, but the truth is that they were on top more or less throughout. The only chink in their armour may be there away form though which will lend a little optimism to Fulham. Indeed they only have two away wins all season, but this won’t change the fact that City are strong favourites.
Fulham have managed just 1 clean sheet against Manchester City in their last 22 games, and have won only 1 of their last 11 league matches against them (W1, D5, L5)
53% of Fulham’s goals this season have come from set plays, which is a higher proportion than any other Premier League side.
Aguero is unavailable for this match and Alvaro Negrado, his likely replacement, has scored in only 1 of his last seven away games for Manchester City in the Premier League.
Dimitar Berbatov is my selected key man for Fulham since the Londoners will need to find some kind of x-factor on the day and this man is most likely to provide. He hasn’t quite shown the quality he put on display at Tottenham and often at Manchester United as well while playing for Fulham, but he has still shown flashes of it. He is Fulham’s top goal scorer this season with three goals (an indication of where some of their troubles lie) and has managed the most shots on target for the club this season. He has a shooting accuracy of 56%, and only Taarbat can better this (83%). Berbatov has also proven to be Fulham’s most creative player and has created 16 chances which is the most in the team. He has also attempted 20 dribbles at a 50% completion rate, and if Fulham are to have a chance against City then he will need to be on his game.
Manchester City may be without Sergio Aguero, but there are still plenty of other key men to choose from in their squad. Personally I have chosen Yaya Toure. He has made the most passes (1208) and the most attacking passes (1099) with a passing accuracy of 91%. Moreover he has made the most penalty area-entering passes (40) in the squad, and so not only does he have a high pass completion rate but these are also passes that put Manchester City into dangerous positions. He is also a frequent goal scorer and is City’s second top goal scorer in the League with 8 goals. What is particularly impressive is his freekick taking ability, and he has already netted multiple times from set pieces this season. Indeed, not only does he run the side from the centre of midfield but he is also a direct threat to the opposition.
Fulham have three injuries in their ranks. Amorebieta has the potential to be back for this match, but Hangeland and Rodallega are certainties to miss it.
Sergio Aguero is of course the biggest name missing from this match and he won’t be back until the end of January. It shouldn’t be forgotten though that another big blow to City is the injury to Zabaleta’s hamstring that will keep him out until mid January too. Jovetic and Nastasic are two player that may return at the weekend while Richards is out for the foreseeable future.
You’d be mad to predict anything other than a Manchester City win, since it would take a spectacular effort and turn in form for Fulham to get a result. So I predict City to win in a comfortable rout.
Manchester City win: 0 – 4