New Year’s Day sees Fulham welcome West Ham United to the Cottage for a relegation 6 pointer. Both teams are struggling in the league and they both occupy places in the relegation zone.
Fulham sit in 18th place with only 16 points from 19 matches and West Ham sit one place lower with just 15 points from their 19 matches.
There is also very little to choose between the teams in the form book. Fulham have lost 4 and won 1 of their last 5 games and West Ham United have not won in the league since they beat Fulham 3-0 in the earlier fixture between the teams at Upton Park.
When West Ham United beat Fulham 3-0 on the 30th November 2013, it signalled the end of Martin Jol’s tenure as Fulham manager, as he was sacked and replaced by Rene Meulensteen.
In the last 5 meetings between the 2 teams in the Barclays Premier League, the winning team has scored 3 goals in all but 1 of the games. That match ended in a 1-1 draw back in October 2010.
West Ham have 1 away win all season, the surprising 3-0 victory away at Spurs back in October.
Fulham have won 1 and lost 4 of their last 5 league home games, that win coming against Aston Villa on the 8th December.
If Fulham are to escape the drop then Scott Parker will be a vital man for Rene Meulensteen. Parker does the dirty work in midfield. Winning the ball back and offering cover for the likes of Adel Taarabt, Pajtim Kasami and Bryan Ruiz.
As you will see below, Parker wins more than half his 50/50 ground duels and has made an impressive 31 interceptions so far this season.
With his tackle success rate up at 77% then Parker is proving to be well worth the muted £2million pounds fee Fulham paid for him.
With West Ham United struggling for goals and with strikers thin on the ground there has been added pressure on Kevin Nolan to provide the goals this term. So far, however, he has struggled to hit the target and the 10 goals he scored last season in all competitions seems a long way off.
Nolan did manage to hit the target during the 3-3 draw against West Bromwich Albion in The Hammers’ last outing and Big Sam will hope that that can be the catalyst for Nolan to go on a scoring run.
With only 2 league goals from 25 shots so far this campaign, West Ham fans will hope they don’t have to wait another 716 minutes so see Nolan’s famous chicken dance celebration.
Fulham are still without their long term injured players Brede Hangeland, Matthew Briggs and Goalkeeper Martin Stekelenberg. Brede Hangeland and Phillipe Senderos are only a week or so away and Dimitar Berbatov could make the match day squad.
Changes are almost certain for Fulham after the 6-0 drubbing in their last match away at Hull.
West Ham United are also still missing their 5 long term injured players, Stewart Downing, Andy Carroll, Winston Reid, Ricardo Vaz Te, James Collins and James Tomkins. Ravel Morrison could also be set for a return to the match day squad.
With so many injuries Big Sam may not have the option of making many changes so expect West Ham to be unchanged.
Neither team will want to lose but both will be desperate to win. Although Fulham have been losing, they have put in much better performances, especially at home. I think this will be a tight affair.
West Ham seem to have found their goalscoring touch but they are now struggling to keep clean sheets.
Defeat in this game could spell the end for Big Sam so I’m backing West Ham to come away with the points, a 2-1 win for the Hammers.