This Saturday, Manchester City welcome Fulham to the Etihad for a Premier League clash that will influence the top and bottom of the league. City have had some mixed results in all competitions of late. The elation of winning the Capital One Cup was stifled by being knocked out of the Champions League and the FA Cup. Despite this, they have only lost one Premier League game since November and will want to continue their strong league form. Fulham were able to get their first league win since January against Newcastle last Saturday. This victory also happened to be manager Felix Magath’s first, and they will want to use it as a point to kick-start their survival bid. Going to the Etihad is a tough task for any team, but Norwich have shown this season that achieving a favourable result is possible. Felix Magath will want his team to replicate that type of display.
Manchester City have no new injury concerns going into the fixture. Sergio Aguero is still out with a reoccurrence of a persistent hamstring injury that has blighted his season. Micah Richards will also miss the game with a muscle injury. Forward Stevan Jovetic could return after being out with a hamstring injury. Defender Matija Nastasic could also return after recovering from a knee injury. Yaya Toure may start behind Edin Dzeko or Alvaro Negredo.
Fulham are still without a number of key players for the game. New signing Kostas Mitroglou is out with a knee injury. Midfielder Ashkan Dejagah scored the winning goal last week, but later picked up an groin injury and will miss the game. Dan Burn and Damien Duff will also be missing with muscle and knee injuries respectively. Midfielder Scott Parker is still not fit to return after spending some time out on the side-lines with a knee problem. Greek midfielder Giorgos Karagounis faces a late fitness test after suffering from a muscle injury. Cauley Woodrow may continue to start up front.
In recent years, Manchester City have been extremely strong against Fulham. When the two teams met earlier in the season at Craven Cottage, City came out on top winning 4-2. The game will be remembered for Vincent Kompany’s comedic own goal. City are unbeaten against Fulham in the Premier League since April 2009, a run spanning 9 games. That day, the Cottagers won 3-1 at the Etihad with Clint Dempsey scoring a brace. Dempsey has just returned to Seattle Sounders following an underwhelming loan spell. Only Micah Richards and Pablo Zabaleta remain from the City squad from that day. Fulham Captain Brede Hangeland is the only remaining Cottager. There has not been a 0-0 draw in the last 19 Premier League matches between the two sides. There has only been one, since the Premier League began, between them.
David Silva put in a great performance in City’s last game against Hull last weekend. After going down to 10 men, Silva continued to be bright and scored a fantastic goal. Many have taken for granted David Silva’s importance in this City side. For much of the season, when fit, Sergio Aguero has gained much of the plaudits. However, watching City play, it is evident that Silva is involved in everything for his team. Evidence for this is that all of Silva’s 18 Premier League appearances have been starts. In these games he has contributed 8 assists and created a chance every 22 minutes for his team mates. Of the players who play regularly, that is the best minutes per chance created ratio in the league. Another remarkable statistic is his pass completion. For a player whose main responsibility is forward penetrating passes, Silva has an open play pass completion rate of 89%. With Alvaro Negredo, and up until last week, Edin Dzeko, having a tough time in finding the net, Silva will have to be at his creative best.
It had been a tough season for Lewis Holtby. The midfielder found his chances limited at Tottenham after all the new arrivals during the summer. His move to Fulham has seen him gain confidence week on week and show the qualities that he possesses. Since moving to Fulham, Holtby has scored once and managed two assists. That is equal to the amount he managed in his 12 months as a Spurs player. Holtby has been trying to make things happen at Fulham with 34% of his attempted passes going forward. He has been employed in the number 10 role by Felix Magath and he has fit in to the Fulham set up well so far. Holtby has worked with Magath before, so he will understand what the German expects of him. He will not be expected to be able create many chances at the Etihad, but if he can expose City’s defensive frailties at least once, Fulham could have a chance of scoring.
It is hard to look past City getting the win in this fixture. They have not been playing as well in the last month, but they should have enough quality to win. Fulham will see anything other than a loss as a win. With big games coming up in the next few weeks, a strong defensive performance could boost morale. City will see the fixture as a game to get back to their attacking best as Fulham have the worst defensive record in the league. A 3-0 Manchester City win is my prediction for the fixture.