Martin Jol’s Fulham take on Malky Mackay’s Cardiff City this Saturday with the teams within two places of each other. Fulham find themselves in the bottom three, sitting in 18th place. Martin Jol’s team have only managed to win one game this season, when they defeated fellow early season struggler’s Sunderland. Since then, they have drawn one and lost three, most recently losing at Stamford Bridge in the West London derby. Martin Jol will hope that his team can bounce back in a home fixture against newly promoted Cardiff. The Bluebirds have also won one solitary game with a famous home win against Manchester City. They have also lost two and drawn two, which gives them a one point lead over the Cottagers. They are yet to win on their travels this season, but with Fulham yet to win at home, Cardiff will fancy their chances.
Fulham have Ashkan Dejagah, Martin Stekelenburg and Matthew Briggs out for the game. Dejagah is out with a calf injury, Stekelenburg is still out with a shoulder injury, picked up in Fulham’s opening game and Briggs is out after having an operation on his hernia. Fulham will hand late fitness tests to Bryan Ruiz and Aaron Hughes ahead of the game. Cardiff’s only injury absentee is summer signing Andreas Cornelius. The striker is currently out with a foot injury but can be expected to return soon. Peter Odemwingie impressed with a goal in midweek in the League Cup fixture against West Ham and will be hoping for a start.
The fixture itself is one that is unique in that it is the first ever clash between the two teams in the Premier League. Not only that, but it is the first game between the two teams in the top tier for over fifty years. It is also the first clash in any competition between the sides in just over 15 years. With that said, there is not much in the way of recent history between the two sides. Fulham have won four out of the last five meetings between the two clubs. This season, Fulham are yet to score more than one goal in a game, similarly Cardiff have only scored in two of their five games.
Important to winning this game will be winning the midfield battle. Fulham signed Scott Parker from Tottenham in August, and the midfielder has added some steel to the Cottagers’ midfield. In his four games this season, Parker has won 100% of his tackles. Parker also has a passing accuracy of 98% in his own half, which shows once he wins the ball, he more often than not finds a team mate. This shows how important Parker can be, in not only breaking down attacks but also starting moves for his side.
With Cardiff not scoring in three of their five games this season, goal scoring is an important area that they need to improve on. Fraizer Campbell, therefore, becomes very important for the Bluebirds, as he is a player with Premier League goal scoring experience. Campbell has already netted twice this season, albeit in one game against Manchester City, and has had a shot accuracy of 67%. This shows that given a chance, Campbell will more often than not hit the target for his team which will result in a goal or a chance on the rebound for another team mate. Campbell has had four clear cut chances this season and scored only one. He is getting into the good positions and needs to take his chances, as Malky Mackay’s men will need a good goal contribution from Campbell if they are to stay up.
With both teams in a similar league position, a draw would seem the most likely result in this game. Fulham will need to use their home advantage in order to give them an extra edge. Their home fans are still looking for their first home win of the season and will hope they could achieve it against a newly promoted side. Cardiff were unlucky last time out against a strong Spurs side. It is important that they bounce back against Fulham, as this is a game they would potentially see as winnable in order to stay up. A 1-1 draw would be a sensible prediction for this one.