Swansea welcome Fulham to the Liberty Stadium on Tuesday night in a game which will be seen as crucial for both sides. With Swansea sitting in 15th with 21 points and Fulham in 17th with 19 points, both teams are hovering precariously above the relegation places. In fact both teams may end up in the bottom three after the midweek games, so a win for either side will be giant step in moving away from the danger zone.
Swansea haven’t had the best of seasons so far, especially by their standards. The current League Cup holders have only won five games so far this season and haven’t won or kept a clean sheet in any of their last eight games. Manager Michael Laudrup has played down any fears of relegation but has admitted it will be a tough task with so many other teams in the same position as the Swans. Swansea have only gained 10 points from their 11 games at home this season, which is unlike them considering their home form in past seasons has always been impressive.
Fulham themselves have had a troubling season so far. With Rene Meulensteen now in charge after Martin Jol’s departure, he has been able to bring some much needed fluidity and structure to Fulham’s play. However, their results haven’t necessarily improved, with heavy defeats to the likes of Everton, Hull and Sunderland in recent months but have seen victories against Norwich and West Ham on the way. Fulham have only scored eight goals away from home so far this season and will need to improve on that against a Swansea side that still average two home goals every game despite their poor form.
Swansea have had the upper hand in this fixture in recent seasons, winning four of five fixtures between the sides since Swansea’s arrival in the Premier League in 2011. Fulham’s only victory came in a 3-0 away win at the end of last season but lost the reverse fixture in November. On that occasion it finished 2-1 to Swansea, with Jonjo Shelvey grabbing the winner to take all three points from Craven Cottage.
Swansea have a whole host of names on the treatment table at the moment with at least eight first team players out injured. Rangel, Canas, Shelvey and Michu are all set to return from injury next month so will not be available for the game. Vorm may be fit enough to return in goal whilst Nathan Dyer and Jonathan De Guzman may return for places on the bench having recovered from their injuries. Gary Monk is also sidelined.
John Arne Riise and Fernando Amorebieta are out injured for Fulham but apart from that Rene Meulensteen has no more injury worries. Sidwell and Parker are certainties to play as well as Berbatov so the manager will have to decide who out of Dejagah, Kacaniklic, Dempsey, Duff, Taraabt and Kasami will fill the remaining three places in midfield.
- Swansea have lost their last four matches at home and have only won two at the Liberty Stadium all season.
- Fulham have gone 18 Barclays Premier League games without a draw, winning five and losing 13 of those matches.
- Fulham have allowed 141 shots on target against them this season, more than any other team in the top flight.
- The last four Premier League meetings between Swansea and Fulham have ended as away wins.
Fulham: Steve Sidwell
Steve Sidwell has probably been one of Fulham’s only standout performers in what has been a poor season for The Cottagers so far. He has been at the heart of Fulham’s midfield both offensively and defensively, making 64 tackles and winning 53 of them, the most in their team. Not known for scoring goals, Sidwell is actually Fulham’s top scorer this season with 5 goals, which firstly shows that he can provide an extra attacking option as well as it showing Fulham’s lack of options up front. Sidwell’s passing has also been good this season with an accuracy rate of 85% from his 918 completed passes and has had 1258 touches of the ball so far.
Swansea: Wilfried Bony
Wilfried Bony has been a revelation since making his move to Swansea, showing that he is every bit as good as the price tag he came with. With a Drogba-style presence up front, his strength, power and clinical finishing has made up for the lack of attacking options for Swansea this season. He again showed his importance to the team on the weekend in the FA Cup, coming off the bench to score two goals in two minutes and win the game 2-1 for his side. Fulham have conceded the most goals in the Premier League this season and Bony will be eyeing another good performance on Tuesday night. Bony has contributed seven goals and one assist in the league so far with a conversion rate of 15% with a 50% clear cut chance conversion rate from eight opportunities. Swansea are looking to buy a winger in the transfer window to help Bony’s attacking strengths, with the Ivorian notching 13 headed attempts at goal this season and scored a header against Man Utd to knock them out of the FA cup.
This will be a game that both teams will want to win but may feel it is more important not to lose, as a point in these circumstances is always a good one. However, I feel it will be determined by which striker is able to cause trouble on the night and with Bony on form, he could be the difference between the two sides.