Liverpool head to Craven Cottage on Wednesday full of confidence after the 5-1 thumping of Arsenal, while Fulham will be buoyed after Darren Bent’s last gasp equaliser secured them a much needed point at Old Trafford.
Bottom of the table Fulham have the worst home record in the Premier League this season, taking just 10 points and conceding 25 goals in their 12 games at Craven Cottage. Fulham have also struggled for goals this season, averaging 0.96 goals per game with Steve Sidwell being their top goalscorer with 6 goals.
Rene Meulensteen has looked to rectify his sides’ goalscoring problems, with the signings of striker Kostas Mitroglou and midfielder Lewis Holtby, with Fulham looking to get themselves out of the relegation zone. Under Jol, Fulham had too many ‘luxury’ players such as Taarabt and Berbatov, who on their day were brilliant but more often than not disappointed the Fulham faithful, with work-rate severely lacking – something Meulensteen has also looked to change.
Liverpool have finally clicked under Brendan Rodgers this season putting in some impressive performances and currently sit fourth in the table, three points above Tottenham and only six points behind leaders Chelsea. Going forward Liverpool have been unstoppable at times with Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge, Phillipe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling causing teams all sorts of problems.
Free scoring Liverpool have notched 63 goals in their 25 games this season, which is only 8 less than they managed in the whole of last season, with the Reds looking good to secure a Champions League place at the very least.
Liverpool will be without defenders Mamadou Sakho and Jose Enrique, while Brendan Rogers has confirmed that Daniel Agger and Glen Johnson have returned to training.
Lucas will definitely miss the game with a knee injury.
John Arne Riise made his return against Manchester United on Sunday after a hamstring injury, while Neil Etheridge and Matthew Briggs miss out.
- Liverpool have only kept 1 clean sheet in their last 11 Premier League away games.
- Luis Suarez has 4 goals in four games against Fulham.
- All 3 of Darren Bent’s goals this season have come as a substitute.
- Only Wayne Rooney (9) has more assists than Steven Gerrard (8) and Luis Suarez (8) this season.
- Fulham have scored 24 goals this season – Luis Suarez has scored 23.
Raheem Sterling has impressed for Liverpool this season, especially in recent weeks when his pace has ripped teams apart.
Sterling will be full of confidence after his man of the match performance against Arsenal, in a game that saw him score twice and record his 4th and 5th goals of the season.
The Englishman has scored every 266 minutes for Liverpool in the league this season, hitting the target with 63% of his shots and converting 21% of his chances – an improvement of 12% on last season. Sterling has also converted 29% of his 14 clear cut chances, compared to last season when he converted 25% of his clear cut chances (although he only had 4).
It is Sterling’s ability to beat players and cut in from the wing that has caused teams so many problems this season though, with the player finding himself with a free run on goal on more than one occasion. Sterling has benefited greatly from Coutinho and Suarez’s ability to split defences with their through balls, a tactic that has worked well for Liverpool this season.
This has showed in the statistics with Coutinho playing more through balls than any other player this season (40), with Suarez in second on 28.
The winger’s dribbling has also improved this season, with Sterling already making more successful dribbles than he did in the whole of the last season. Sterling has a dribbling accuracy of 61% this season compared to 44% last season, although his crossing has been poor this season with only 9% of his crosses finding a teammate.
If Fulham are to get anything out of this game they will not only have to stop SAS up front, but also try and limit the space in behind their defence and stop Coutinho and Suarez from playing the balls in behind.
The loan signing of Lewis Holtby from Tottenham may be an inspired one by Rene Meulensteen, with the midfielder being exactly the type of player Fulham need if they are to stay in the Premier League.
The German international’s work-rate is second to none and this is something Fulham maybe missed under Martin Jol, with Taarabt, Berbatov and Bent looking uninterested in tracking back and closing down the opposition when they didn’t have the ball during the Dutchman’s reign.
Holtby will always give 100% and is also a very talented footballer. The Spurs midfielder has already created 4 chances and got an assist in his 2 appearances for Fulham so far, creating one clear cut chance.
If Holtby can continue to create chances, as well as maybe add a few goals to his game, then Fulham will have a very good player for their relegation battle. Holtby will be chomping at the bit to play regular first team football in the Premier League after his bit part role at Tottenham and will be eager to impress not only Tim Sherwood, but the rest of the Premier League as well.
Fulham 1-2 Liverpool