Fulham V Stoke City 23/2/2013 Preview

It seems like an age since we last kicked a ball, treated to a week off last week due to us being knocked out of the FA Cup has me chomping at the bit for some football i actually care about. Since Norwich almost two weeks ago i have had to make do with some Champions League and Cup action, good as it was i cant wait to see us back.

The 12.45 kick off is a bit of a pain in the arse and i could complain about that for hours (as i have done here https://trentsetters.wordpress.com/2013/02/19/the-stand-against-modern-football/) but i shan’t, lets get back to the matter at hand this weeks preview.

We have Stoke to look forward too if thats the right way to phrase it, people tend to look forward to Stoke as much as being kneed in the family jewels or visiting the dentist. Our record against the Potters has been decent since their promotion to the Premier League in 2007-2008. On the banks of the themes our record reads P4 W3 L1 the loss of course coming on a rainy night prior to the European Cup Final in a game its fair to say no one could be bothered with.

Stoke currently find themselves in 10th place which is respectable going on paper but not when looking at how active they always are in the transfer window. We see this activity every transfer window when some unlucky chump from Sky has to stand in a scene closely resembling the end of Sean Of The Dead somewhere in Stoke. Though the Potters currently stand ahead of us in the league their form has been somewhat patchy of late with just 4 points in the last 6. Il stick my neck out here, despite us being behind them in the league i will wager my dog we will finish above them come May.

The team news coming out of the Britannia camp is that Marc Wilson could make a return on Saturday following a broken leg, football manager legend Brek Shea is also in the match day squad, missing are Match of The Day pundit/Horse trainer Michael Owen and Cameron Jerome.

In terms of us we could see the return of Kieran Richardson who id like to see brought back in at left back. Again sadly we will be without Kerim Frei and Mahamadou Diarra.

In terms of my gut feeling for this game? It could go either way, we have the potential to hand out a good old fashioned spanking to someone and we are due doing it soon but we also have a tendency to be bullied out of games we really shouldn’t be. Two reasonable performances against Manchester United and Norwich City have given me hope it could be the former, much as ever depends if the mercurial,languid, decadent crew Bryan and Berba fancy it which all too often they plainly don’t.

Saturday really depends on how much we want it because one thing is guaranteed when playing Stoke they will fight tooth and nail for every ball. We fell victim to their competitiveness earlier in the season leading Jol to call Stoke a Rugby team which i feel is unfair, their uncompromising style is a credit to the Premier League and adds another dimension to the league. We need to match Stoke with high energy and high work rate so a lot depends on centre midfield pairing, personally i would like to be Sidwell and Frimpong who will both ‘get into um’.

So see you all bright and early Saturday afternoon, lets hope we are all enjoying our pints back in the boozer watching The Jeff Stelling show come 3pm, YOU WHITES.

Norwich V Fulham 9/2/13 Preview

This Saturday will see us return to action, on the road, after two satisfying performances at home. The trip to Norfolk is one I’m looking forward to, I’m reasonably confident about taking some points from Norwich City.

My last two previews were peppered with pessimism. Firstly my preview of the game against West Ham, i had fears of defeat due to the Hammers being a bogey side for us. Next up came my preview of the visit of Manchester United, this time i was fearful due to being up against the best team in England.

The trip to Carrow Road though is different, i wouldn’t venture as far as to say I’m confident, i am though optimistic! History tends to mark Norwich as a team we enjoy playing, illustrated by a favourable head to head record against the Canaries. In Premier league history we have played Norwich five times, Winning 4 and drawing 1, with 15 for and just 2 against. Looking back further we seem to really enjoy playing Norwich, in 42 games we have 20 wins, Norwich 11 and 11 draws.

So historical evidence points towards a positive result for us, as does our last meeting the 5-0 opening day romp at the Cottage. Historical stats are all well and good but lets get back to the future.

Lets start off by looking at Norwich City’s season thus far. Originally at the start of the year i predicted that Norwich would struggle to adapt to a new manager and the dreaded second season syndrome. I felt that the loss of Paul Lambert would put a huge dent into Norwich’s team sprit. Team sprit was a vital component in their back to back promotions and Premier League survival last term. At whilst my prediction of struggle was proving to be on the money for the first quarter of the season, Norwich really turned their form around in the second quarter of the season. A fantastic run of form 11 unbeaten which included wins against Manchester United and Arsenal, propelled Norwich up the table. Of late though Norwich’s form has begun to return to that of a struggling side with just one win in 8 stretching back to the 2-1 defeat of Wigan in mid December.

Whilst Norwich have yet to recover from a horrible run of form, there are signs in our recent performances that we have. The ideal way for Martin and the lads to prove it? 3 points on Saturday, which will see us build a gap to our opponents who we are on joint points with.

Team news for Saturdays 3pm kick off starting from our perspective. Its expected Brede Hangeland and Dimitar Berbatov will miss out along with Sidwell, Diarra, Frei,Richardson this is through injury, whilst Manolev and Eyong are awaiting work permits.

The team news coming out of the Norwich camp is that the only serious doubt is Antony Pilkington who is facing a rush for fitness. John Ruddy is still missing as he has been for a few months. A debut could be given to new signing from the MLS, Kei Kamara.

As i earlier stated I’m reasonably confident despite injuries we have the players capable of getting some vital points at Norwich. Saturday should be a day to remember, COYW!

Fulham V Manchester United Preview 2/2/13

Exactly one week on from Saturday’s mauling, we are forced to renter the ring with Fergie’s champions elect, this time at Craven Cottage. Will a all round positive week for us, give us more of a competitive chance this time around?

Its been a great week for us this week. Firstly there was the news, Al Fayed was wiping the clubs debt, a move that secures the long term future of Fulham FC.The second piece of good news, came in the shape of a fantastic performance against West Ham on Wednesday night. The 3-1 victory was a result that has the potential to turn our season back around. Finally, the transfer window ended on Thursday, now i have fully reflected upon our business in January i will say that our squad looks a lot stronger than at the start of the month, that considered i find it hard not to be satisfied with the squad we now have to pick from.

The mood going into last weeks game was largely negative, this weeks mood is slightly more confident and positive from a fans perspective, as I’m sure it is in the camp.

So lets start off with team news. Manchester United fresh from Wednesdays 2-1 victory against Southampton,a game in which at times United rode their luck, visit with few injury worries. The league leaders visit with just two injury doubts, Johnny Evans and Ashley Young. A side similar to last weeks is what i am expecting but with the added fear factor of Robin Van Persie who was rested last week but should start this time around.

Missing out for us on Saturday will probably be Kieran Richardson, Kerim Frei, Mahammedou Diarra and its doubtful Simon Davies will be anything more than a sub. The most concerning piece of news is that Dimitar Berbatov may not be fit to face his former club after pulling a hamstring.

As it stands it looks like we are going to be without Berbatov which how ever you dress it up is a massive, massive blow. Berba is integral to how we play, how we attack, defend and how we are set up as a team, it will be extremely challenging to adapt to playing without a player who at times we rely too heavily upon. The silver lining for me at least, is that it will give a real chance to Miladen Petric, a player i really rate and one that always does better when not in Berba’s shadow. Petric is also a player that links up well with Rodellega, it could be a blessing in disguise particularly if they link up as well as they did on Wednesday. Berbatov’s absence should also allow Ruiz to be the man to dictate play, something he does fantastically.

Saturday could see a number of debutants for Fulham, any of the troop of rented players could grace the Cottage live on ESPN. Frimpong, Manolev, Enoh and most excitingly of all Emanuelson, could all feature on Saturday. Its great to finally have some options in the the squad, a real battle for centre midfield and cover for both left and right back. I don’t anticipate Jol throwing any of our new signings straight in but its an exciting prospect to have them in the squad.

I see Manchester United as a free go to be honest, im not expecting anything and as such any positive result is a bonus. What i do expect though is a more spirited performance than last week, which i am anticipating. The fixture has been reasonably one sided since Roy departed. We have though had some famous victories in the past and who can forget the last time when we had a quick fire back to back against the Red Devils the second tie resulted in that 2-0 victory, so fingers crossed, we will be having a jolly evening.

Fulham V West Ham United Preview 30/1/13

There are a few games at the start of every season all of us Fulham supporters tend to pencil in for disappointment, Arsenal away, Everton away and both fixtures against West Ham United. To end a horrible run of form dating back 15 games, to the 20th October which has seen us pick up three league wins, we must beat one of our bogey sides, West Ham this Wednesday night.

Historically Fulham have struggled massively in the premier league era in match ups with our friends from the East End. We have met the boys for the Boleyn 17 times since 2001 winning just two, losing ten and drawing five. This is a record that needs to be changed this year, with victory being vital in boosting our flagging season. Sadly a win is going to be a tough ask. if the reverse fixture is anything to go by, back in September Big Sam’s men tormented Fulham en route to a 3-0 victory at Upton Park.

Fulham can though take heart from West Ham’s recent down turn in form, of late the Hammers haven’t been on the best of runs. West Ham’s last five results have seen just one win, a draw and three losses including a 5-1 humbling from Arsenal. In West Ham’s favour they did have a day off on Saturday whilst we were being torn apart at Old Trafford in the quite frankly abysmal defeat to Manchester United.

Early team news suggests a major positive for Fulham, we possibly won’t be coming up against Andy Carroll who is still a major doubt. This is extremely good news, we may not be facing the man of the match from the last time we met. Back in September, Andy gave Brede Hangeland a torrid time having a major say in everything good about West Ham. Also missing for the Irons will be Reid, Potts, McCartney and James Collins, which will leave the Hammers quite light in defensive options.

In terms of our teams news i think we will see a side very similar to the one we saw at the weekend if not in fact the very same with Davies, Frei, Richardson and Diarra all missing. There is the possibility that new signing Emmanuel ‘Dench’ Frimpong could play some role on Wednesday night but at the time of writing it looks increasingly unlikely the Arsenal Loanee will be joined in the match day squad by any other new signings.

So Wednesday night wont be easy for Fulham,it is not just a massive game for us to attempt to get a win to stop an alarming slide towards The Championship its also a massive game for West Ham who are looking to turn their own run of poor form.

We are low on confidence at Fulham at the moment, a fragile confidence that wouldn’t have been helped by the 4-1 loss at Old Trafford, it is vital we all get behind the boys in a tricky fixture on Wednesday and try to push the lads to the three points we all crave, lets make The Cottage a fortress once more!