The Christmas football fixtures are passing us by quickly and these two teams are both desperate for points this weekend. A win for the visitors would put them just one point behind Hull and three points would almost certainly get them out of the relegation zone. Now only 4 points separate the bottom six sides while Hull themselves are only 4 points above the relegation zone after an impressive start to the season. The home side will be looking at fixtures like this as must wins to ensure they maintain their Premier League status, a victory could see Steve Bruce’s side climb into the top half.
Hull haven’t won in their last five fixtures, so they’ll be desperate to get back to winning ways, especially now the bottom half is so competitive. A few more poor results and the team from Humberside could find themselves in serious relegation trouble, they have to make sure they stay in mid table. The side played well on Boxing day in their 3-2 defeat against Manchester United. Moreover they were very unlucky not to take anything from the game after having one or two golden opportunities in the dying stages to equalise. Bruce will be disappointed to lose as his side took a two goal lead early on, especially when Hull are well known for conceding few goals at home.
Fulham have undergone a mini resurgence under new manager Rene Meulensteen as they move closer to getting out of the drop zone. They have won twice in his first five games with the other three ending in defeat. These losses came against Tottenham, Everton and Manchester City, these are matches that Fulham wouldn’t have expected many points from anyway. The former Manchester United coach has got Fulham playing more effective football and they look like they can get enough points to survive, whereas under Martin Jol they looked nailed on to be relegated.
This fixture was famously Hull’s first ever match in the Premier League in 2008. The home side won on that occasion 2-1. Geovanni and Caleb Folan scored for Hull that day, while Soel Ki-Hyeon opened the scoring for the visitors. Hull also won the last match between the two at the KC Stadium. This time it ended 2-0 with Jimmy Bullard and Craig Fagan finding the net.
Hull had only conceded three goals at home before Boxing day. This has now doubled. Bruce has Hull well organised and he’ll be hoping that his defence’s confidence isn’t damaged too much after conceding three against the Champions.
Fulham have scored in all five of Meulensteen’s matches in charge. This highlights that the Dutchman has got his side playing better football and they are starting to score goals. Teams at the bottom need to score goals or they are in danger of being cut adrift, Fulham fans will feel positive now as it looks like they are going to score in every match.
Tom Huddlestone has been an integral part of Hull’s early success back in the Premier League and he will be crucial again on Saturday. He has yet to score for his new club, but he has been creating chances and dominating matches in the midfield. He has created 31 chances which is one every 50 minutes, which is impressive in a side like Hull. The former Spurs player has only one assist which he will be looking to improve on in the second half of the season. He has an impressive passing range and his delivery from set pieces will cause problems for all teams in this division. He passes forward 35% of the time while just 12% of his passes go backwards. This highlights his attacking intent, there is no doubt that the midfielder looks to drive his side forward every opportunity he gets. It will be tight on Saturday, so Huddlestone will be crucial both defensively and offensively. If he plays well, the home side will probably bag the three points.
Scott Parker is key for Fulham in their fight for survival as he provides the graft in a team filled with flair. He has scored two goals for the Cottagers this season, with his second being the winner against Norwich on Boxing day. The midfielder’s pass completion rate of 86.46% is highly impressive, it shows how he can provide his side with a solid base as he can retain possession so the attacking players can then assert themselves. He also has a 77.55% success rate from 49 tackles highlighting his ability to win the ball back for his side. The Englishman’s game resolves around winning possession and retaining it which is important for a side like Fulham who can’t afford to spend too much time without the ball. Their team is suited to having the ball as they don’t have many hard working players in the side. If they are to survive this season, they will need Parker to stay fit. On Saturday, he will be up against an impressive midfield, he will need to play well or Fulham will be leaving Hull with nothing.
Allan McGregor is a doubt after picking up a knock against Manchester United. Steve Harper will be on standby after coming on at half time on Boxing day. Robbie Brady, Sone Aluko and Stephen Quinn are all still missing and won’t return until the new year. Hull aren’t expected to make many changes to the side that started against Manchester United.
Maarten Stekelenburg is expected to miss this fixture with an ankle injury, so David Stockdale will continue in the Fulham goal. Dimitar Berbatov will face a late fitness test so he could return. Philippe Senderos and Brede Hangeland will still be missing for Fulham. Darren Bent and Bryan Ruiz will be hoping they are involved after being unused substitutes on Boxing day.
There aren’t going to be many goals in this one. Hull are well organised and they will be looking for a clean sheet after conceding three against Manchester United. The home side will also know that they need to stop the rot after going five without a win and this match gives them the perfect opportunity to do that. Fulham won’t be a pushover but I fancy Hull to get the three points. It won’t be pretty though.