It’s the FA Cup weekend and this Sunday will see two London rivals face each other in glamorous West London at Craven Cottage.
For Fulham, once a staple fixture in the Premier League, this is a genuine opportunity to get one over one of their neighbours in Tottenham Hotspur at home after a convincing 4-1 win against Hull City in the previous round. With the visitors struggling with poor form and injuries to key men, Slavisa Jokanovic’s Championship side, having won four of their last five games, should be chomping at bits to make Craven Cottage as hostile as possible to give them every chance of causing another upset in this year’s FA Cup. The manager has echoed the buoyant mood at the club in the pre-match press conference where he said,
“It’s a great opportunity, for myself, Fulham, my players, and the fans. We don’t need any further motivation. This competition is famous for its surprises. It’s a fantastic chance for us, and isn’t a moment for us to surrender.”
Tottenham Hotspur are still reeling from two consecutive defeats – to Liverpool in the Premier League followed by a dispiriting 1-0 loss to KAA Gent in the Europa League. A third defeat on the bounce is almost unthinkable given the impact it could have on the morale of the side which will also put the manager Pochettino under more pressure for their continuing under-achievement in the cup competitions. It’s imperative that the North London club ensured progress in the tournament to appease their fans who have had very little success in the last few decades as they are equipped with a starting eleven as good as any to go all the way and win it.
Fulham defender Ryan Fredericks will miss the game as he serves the final match of his three-game ban. Tomas Kalas is available for selection after the defender was confirmed to have trained with the first team.
Pochettino confirmed that Harry Kane picked up a minor knee injury in Belgium, and is likely to be rested for the trip to Craven Cottage. Jan Vertonghen and Danny Rose are still out as the boss will look to field a heavily rotated squad to keep their main men fresh ahead of the second leg of the Europa League Last 32 tie at Wembley.
- Tottenham have progressed from five of their previous six FA Cup ties against Fulham, but were knocked out by them in the most recent meeting (4-0 in round four, 2010/11).
- However, since that 4-0 win, Fulham have lost each of their last three games versus Spurs at Craven Cottage.
- Fulham have not knocked out two Premier League teams in the same FA Cup campaign as a lower league side since 1998/99 (Aston Villa and Southampton).
- Spurs have progressed from 12 of their last 13 FA Cup ties against teams from lower down the pyramid – the exception being against Leeds in 2012/13.
Key Men Comparison
Tom Cairney (Fulham) v Mousa Dembélé (Tottenham Hotspur)
Fulham are having a better season than perhaps, what their position in the league table suggests. They are eighth in the table, but only six points off the play-off positions. Jokanovic’s side have highest shots per game in the division and also average the highest amount of possession. Midfielder Tom Cairney has been their best player by far, scoring and creating 6 goals each in 29 starts. Averaging 3 key passes per game, the 26-year old is Fulham’s best bet to unlock what will be a makeshift Tottenham defence on Sunday.
Spurs are still third in the league but they look to have hit a small bump on the road with two quick defeats in succession. Their situation is not helped by injuries either with players like Kane, Rose and Vertonghen set to be unavailable against Fulham, the mantle should likely be taken on by midfielder Dembélé, who on his day, can be a devastating in midfield with his powerful runs with the ball, pushing Tottenham Hotspur ten to fifteen yards up the field in seconds. He will be key in retaining possession which should provide the visitors their best chance to hurt Fulham and come way with a vital win.
With one eye on the second leg, I see this as a big opportunity for Fulham to inflict more misery on Spurs. Expect the visitors to get a result they would probably want the least.
Fulham 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur