Fulham host Aston Villa this weekend, desperate for a result that will not only give them vital points but will also provide the new manager and the fans with a much needed lift after a run of dire results. Sitting in 18th place, two points from the bottom of the table and no win in the last six games, Rene Meulensteen will feel that this is the perfect opportunity for his team to show grit and determination in the fight for their Premier League status. They will feel hard done by in midweek having led Tottenham 1-0 until late on when two goals for Spurs clinched the points. The performance, however, will have pleased the manager. With a busy period of games coming up, a run of good results for Fulham will see them climb up the table so a positive outlook is needed for them to progress.
Paul Lambert and his Aston Villa team will be very confident going into the game at Craven Cottage, having just beaten high-flying Southampton away from home in a thrilling 3-2 win. Their last defeat came in late October to Everton and since then they have won two and drawn three out of the last five and will hope to continue that run on Sunday afternoon. Villa now sit in the top half of the table in 10th and Lambert will hope to cement that place if his men continue to perform as they have done.
Fulham have only won once in the last 8 meetings between the two sides, with Aston Villa winning three and the two teams playing out a draw on 4 occasions. However, in this fixture last year, Fulham were victorious with a 1-0 win courtesy of a late strike by Chris Baird.
Fulham have been rocked by the news that Brede Hangeland will face another six weeks out of action after undergoing surgery to clear up a sciatic nerve problem. Phillipe Senderos is likely to be available after picking up a slight thigh strain in the game against Tottenham. Darren Bent is not available as he is on loan from Aston Villa and is not allowed to play against his parent club. Briggs and Rodellega are also out whilst Richardson and Amorebieta will face late fitness tests.
Aston Villa captain Ron Vlaar is a major doubt for Sunday’s game after being forced off at half-time during the win at Southampton with a calf strain. Bennett (back) and Weimann (hamstring) will both undergo late fitness tests before the game to determine whether they can feature whilst Okore, Gardner, Luna and N’Zogbia are all set to miss out. Benteke is set to start the match after only being picked for the bench in midweek.
Possible Team Line-Ups
- Villa are unbeaten in their last five Barclays Premier League games with only Everton currently on a longer run with a 7 match unbeaten streak.
- Brad Guzan has made 45 catches, 18 more than any other goalkeeper in the Premier League this season.
- Fulham have won just one of their last 11 Premier League games at Craven Cottage, losing nine and drawing once.
- Villa completed only 50% of their passes in their midweek away game, the lowest figure recorded in a Premier League match since April 2010 (Wolves against Stoke).
- There have been just four goals scored in the last four Premier League meetings between Fulham and Aston Villa.
- In midweek, Dimitar Berbatov assisted a Premier League goal for the first time in over a year (since November 10th 2012)
- Fulham haven’t lost 6 league games in a row since Feb/Mar 2002 and have never gone on a 7-match losing streak in the Premier League era.
Fulham: Dimitar Berbatov
Within the last few days, Berbatov has expressed his unhappiness at Fulham and has been reported to be looking for a new club when the transfer window opens in January. Nonetheless, as long as he is at the club, he is Fulham’s man attacking threat and definitely one of the first names on the team sheet. He was again Fulham’s most dangerous player in the opposition half and assisted the goal for Dejagah in the second half. By Berbatov’s standards, this season so far has been quite poor for the Bulgarian, having only scored one goal. In one way you can understand his frustration at not receiving the service he would normally expect but with the team playing nowhere near the standard to win games in the recent weeks, you feel that he may need to work harder for the team in order to get the best out of his fellow team-mates. His shot accuracy is 50% so far but he has only had 18 shots overall this season, just over one every game, which is very low for a striker of his ability. Berbatov has always been a supplier as well as a goal scorer and has created 12 chances so far for his team mates but has missed all three clear cut chances that have fallen his way this season which shows that he may need to improve his clinical nature up front. Regardless of his relatively poor form, Berbatov is handful for any team on his day and will be eyeing up a good performance from himself, as well as the team come Sunday.
Aston Villa: Gabriel Agbonlahor
Agbonlahor goes into this game in good form, scoring his first goal of the season and finding an assist to help his side to a 3-2 win over Southampton. Having been hampered with injury problems, he hasn’t been able to nail down a run of games so far this season. With Benteke being relativity quiet in front of goal in recent games, the timely return of Agbonlahor has been crucial and fans will hope that with both their main strikers fit, they will be able to build up a steady partnership in the final third, which will hopefully produce goals. So far, Agbonlahor has managed three assists as well as his solitary goal, but has managed to create 15 goal scoring opportunities, which shows how much of a creative threat he can be. An issue that can be viewed as a weak point is his shooting accuracy, with only a third of his shots so far being on target, which can be improved upon massively. With the team growing in confidence every week, Agbonlahor and his team-mates will feel that they can produce performances and pick up points wherever they go and will hope for the same against Fulham
Both teams will feel as though they can come away from this match with all three points with the pressure being mostly on Fulham having not won a single point in the last six games. Aston Villa will obviously be confident of a positive result but Wednesday’s games against Spurs showed that Fulham still have enough to trouble teams and so I feel it may be time for them to produce a result to brighten up the spirits surrounding the club.
Prediction: Fulham 1-0 Aston Villa