The Monday night football game this week will see Fulham travel to Selhurst Park to take on Crystal Palace in a London derby. The teams are only separated by two places, as Palace lie second from bottom in 19th and Fulham find themselves in 17th place. Both teams have not started the season in the best of form, which means both teams will feel they are in with a chance of beating each other. Palace have only three points, with their only win coming at home to bottom of the table Sunderland. Fulham are four points better off and won their last game against Stoke City, but the Cottagers will be wary that a Palace win will see them close the gap to one point. Both Managers will be desperate for wins to ease the pressure on themselves.
Palace currently have a few injury concerns. Their long term absentees are club captain Paddy McCarthy (Groin), Full-back Jack Hunt (Ankle) and last year’s top scorer Glenn Murray (Knee). The Eagles are also without midfielders Kagisho Dikgacoi (Hamstring) and Jonathan Williams (Ankle). Welsh defender Danny Gabbidon faces a late fitness test to make the squad.
Fulham will hand late fitness tests to Scott Parker, Aaron Hughes, Ashkan Dejagah and Dimitar Berbatov, with the latter likely to feature after getting over a knock. Goalkeeper Martin Steklenburg may return ahead of schedule, but it will be touch and go after he sustained a shoulder injury during the first game of the season.
The teams have only met twice in the Premier League era. This came the last time that the Eagles were in the top flight during the 2004/05 season. In the home fixture Palace won 2-0, but lost 3-1 in the corresponding away fixture. Before that Palace had lost all three of their previous league meetings with Fulham. Palace have conceded in every game this season and only the bottom team Sunderland have conceded more. Both teams have scored the same amount of goals: five. Palace have conceded four more (13) than Fulham’s nine. Dwight Gayle and Darren Bent are both top scorers for their respective clubs with two goals.
Palace’s top scorer this season is Dwight Gayle. Gayle was signed in the summer from Peterborough for over £6 million. Despite not starting every game, Gayle has managed to score twice which is some achievement for a player who had previously never played in the Premier League. Gayle has scored one of his two clear cut chances. He also managed to score a memorable goal at Anfield in the Eagles’ last fixture. With a shooting accuracy of 33%, it is clear Gayle is still getting used to the Premier League, but his goals could prove important in helping Palace to stay up.
When he arrived last season, Dimitar Berbatov instantly became the club’s talisman. Surprisingly, Berbatov is yet to score or assist a goal in the Premier League this season. The Bulgarian has missed both of his two clear cut chances, which goes against his usual cool character in front of goal. Fulham fans may feel there is a possible correlation between Berbatov’s lack of attacking contribution and Fulham’s league place. If the Cottagers are to move up the table, Berbatov’s contribution will be vital. Berbatov’s total last season, of fifteen goals and a clear-cut chance conversion rate of 59% show what he is capable of, and Martin Jol will hope to that his talisman’s form will improve starting on Monday night against Crystal Palace.
With both teams desperate for a win, this could be quite an open affair. The Eagles have not settled after they made fourteen signings in the summer. Ian Holloway is yet to find his best eleven, something he will need to do very soon if Palace are to have a chance of staying up. Fulham will want to pick up where they left off before the international break with another win. As Palace have conceded in every game, a score draw or Fulham win looks most likely. A 2-2 draw is my prediction for this one.