Liverpool welcome Fulham to Anfield this weekend with both teams looking to bounce back after losing their last Premier League outing. Liverpool find themselves in 3rd place, owing only to goal difference behind Chelsea. Last weekend’s loss to Arsenal stretched the gap between Liverpool and Arsenal to five points, but with a Champions League spot the aim this season, Liverpool will feel they are performing well enough. Fulham find themselves closer to the opposite end of the table in 16th place, only two points away from the relegation zone. Martin Jol’s side come into the game on the back of a 1-3 home defeat to Manchester United, with many Cottagers fans disillusioned with their side at present.
Liverpool have a few injury concerns for the game. Three Liverpool players face late fitness tests in order to be available for the game. Captain Steven Gerrard (Thigh), Glen Johnson (Illness) and full back Jose Enrique (Knee) will all hope to be declared fit to take part in the game. Liverpool’s long term injury absentees are Iago Aspas (Thigh) and Sebastian Coates who is out until May with anterior cruciate ligament knee damage. Fulham’s latest injury problem is striker Hugo Rodellega (Groin) who has been ruled out until December. Defender Brede Hangeland may return after leg problem sustained in the game against Crystal Palace. Fulham’s one long term injury absentee is defender Matthew Briggs (Groin) who has no return date set as yet.
Liverpool have lost three of their last ten games against Fulham. This includes three wins in their last five at Anfield. In the corresponding fixture last season, Liverpool won 4-0. The Reds early season form coupled with Fulham’s poor form could see a repeat in the result. Fulham’s last win at Anfield came as recently as May 2012, which means they are capable of getting a result. Fulham’s strikers Dimitar Berbatov and Darren Bent have managed three goals between them this season. Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge have managed nearly five times that scoring fourteen goals between them. Fulham have conceded nine goals in their last three games in all competitions.
Luis Suarez has had a blistering return following his suspension, scoring six goals in five games. This has included a hat-trick in his last appearance at Anfield against West Brom. Suarez has been very much involved since his return attempting twenty-two shots in his five games so far. He has converted two of his three clear cut chances showing the improvement he has shown over the last year. His partnership with Sturridge will be important in this game and during the rest of the season, as the two continue their impressive link play with one another. Suarez has been cleared by FIFA to play in the fixture and then jet straight off Istanbul for Uruguay’s preparations from their World Cup Play-off against Jordan. Suarez availability will be a massive boost to Brendan Rodgers and his team.
Fulham’s goalkeeper will have to be in impressive form if they are to get a result at Anfield. Maarten Stekelenburg was courted by some of Europe’s top clubs before his move to Roma. Stekelenburg didn’t have the best time at Roma and after the signing of Morgan De Sanctis by Roma in the summer, Fulham have achieved a real coup in his acquisition. After getting injured in the first fixture of the season, he has returned to the starting line up in recent weeks. He is yet to have a clean sheet in his four games, but if he is able to claim his first at Liverpool, he will need a stellar performance.
Liverpool will want a comprehensive home performance in their chase for a Champions League spot. Despite the loss to Arsenal, the Reds will still be a in a confident mood going into the fixture. There is no doubt that Martin Jol needs a result to take the pressure off his team. An away trip to Anfield would be difficult for Fulham at the best of times, but with the cloud of gloom currently circling over the club and its fans, Jol will need to get a big performance out of his side. Maybe the Reds attacking ought to prove too strong for Fulham’s defence just like United’s did last week. A 3-1 Liverpool win is my prediction for this one.