The Premier League this season is living up to its reputation of a closely fought league. Just 5 points separate the top four teams and just two separate Manchester City at the top, with Liverpool and Chelsea behind them. If this weekend’s results align themselves in Liverpool’s favour, the Reds could head into the November international break as table toppers. City have to play Manchester United at home, Chelsea face a difficult trip to Crystal Palace, and Liverpool host the bottom-of-the-table Fulham on Sunday noontime kick-off.
While they face such an easy fixture, and in general an easy run-in to Christmas, Liverpool come into this game humiliated, after their shock loss to Red Star Belgrade on Tuesday night in the Champions League. Liverpool will be smarting after that loss and should show the inevitable reaction on Sunday. The Reds, who have scored the fourth-most goals in the league as of now will be keen to add a few more goals to the tally on Sunday. In the spirit of showing respect to the opponents, Jurgen Klopp mentioned Fulham’s attacking prowess in the pre-match conference. However, given Liverpool’s defensive record in the league (only 5 goals conceded so far), Fulham have little chance of adding a lot to Liverpool’s goal conceded column.
Indeed, Fulham’s summer signings have combined to contribute several goals for the Cottagers – they have scored 11 goals and would be fifteenth in the table if the table was based on goals scored. But they have also conceded a whopping 29 goals in 11 games and would be topping the league if the table was based on goals conceded. Given both the team’s trajectories, Fulham cannot realistically expect to win on Sunday. Instead, they will be focused on damage control and will try to ensure that even if they lose, they lose by the minimum number of goals.
- Liverpool have won their last four Premier League games against Fulham, this being the first meeting between the two sides since February 2014. This time too, the Cottagers face an uphill task.
- Fulham have managed just one win in their 33 away visits to Anfield (D9 L23), scoring just four times in their last 17 games at Anfield.
- While Jurgen Klopp has led Liverpool to victories in eight home Premier League games against newly-promoted teams, Fulham have taken only one point from their last 18 Premier League games against the Big Six sides (W0 D1 L17).
- Liverpool are also unbeaten in their last 26 Premier League home game, their longest such run since August 2009 (31 games), while Fulham are failing to keep a clean sheet even. The Cottagers are one of just three teams in the entire English League that are yet to keep a clean sheet (along with Macclesfield and Sheffield Wednesday).
- Irrespective of who leads Liverpool’s attack on Sunday, it would be a worrisome attack for Fulham. Daniel Sturridge has contributed to five goals in last three Premier League games against Fulham for Liverpool (4 goals, 1 assist). Mohamed Salah, on the other hand, is averaging a goal contribution every 66 minutes against newly-promoted teams, scoring 4 and assisting 5 goals in 592 minutes.
Mohamed Salah’s amazing goal contributions last time have raised the expectations so high that 8 Premier League goal contributions (5 scored, 3 assisted) in just 11 games seems to be less. Indeed he has contributed just one goal less this season as of now than he had at this time last season. Liverpool’s talisman from last season seems underwhelming as compared to last season, but his underlying stats are solid. His xGp90 is 0.66 and xAp90 is 0.35, amounting to the possibility of contributing at least one goal if he plays for full 90 minutes. After the disappointing showing in Serbia, if the Egyptian clicks into form for Liverpool, Fulham will be in for a horrid afternoon.
In his pre-match conference, Jurgen Klopp seemed to be very cautious about Fulham’s attacking prowess and it might seem incongruent given Fulham’s position in the league. But in Luciano Vietto and Andre Schurrle up front, the Cottagers have two very good forwards. While the German’s pedigree is well-known, the 24-year old Vietto was relatively unknown when Fulham signed him in the summer. The Argentine’s CV, however, includes Valencia, Athletico Madrid and Sevilla in his most recent employers indicating his class. In the Premier League, that class has shone through four assists for Fulham. His xGp90 and xAp90 of 0.16 and 0.34 respectively give him the chance of contributing a goal every two games, while his xGBuildup per 90 of 0.29 indicates his value as a creative threat for Fulham.
For Liverpool, Naby Keita and Jordan Henderson, as well as Joe Gomez are fit to play on Sunday, so Klopp will have to make a few tough choices. Xherdan Shaqiri who did not travel to Serbia to avoid potential harassment from the crowd should likely return to the starting lineup on Sunday, while Adam Lallana and Daniel Sturridge are likely to drop to the bench.
For Fulham, Joe Bryan and Kevin McDonald are the only injury concerns, as manager Slavisa Jokanovic tries to fashion a side that can thwart the might of Liverpool.
Liverpool are looking to bounce back from the humiliating defeat in Serbia and it is likely that Fulham will have to bear the brunt of that reaction. Klopp can insist all he wants that Liverpool will show respect to Fulham, but it is very likely that Liverpool can rout Fulham for another 4-0 victory.