Fulham - Fixture Gauntlet Begins!
In case some hadn`t noticed, our Cottagers don`t seem quite as sharp as they did last season.
In fact, were it not for two deflected goals (two of the three we`ve scored, I might add), we might now find ourselves in the relegation zone.
While that in-and-of-itself would not be the end of the world at this early point in the season, it might bring about the first twinges of nervousness amongst Fulham fans as we approach a three-week fixture gauntlet of league, domestic cup and European competition that will test our squad size and collective match fitness.
If you`re one who believes that fixture congestion contributed to our flat early season performances, let`s hope you were wrong, 'cause they might just get worse.
Commencing this Thursday (17/9), Fulham kick-off a run of 6 matches (2 home/4 away) over an 18-day period. 17/09 - (A) CSKA Sofia (Europa League)20/09 - (A) Wolverhampton Wanderers (Premier League)23/09 - (A) Manchester City (Carling Cup)26/09 - (H) Arsenal (Premier League)01/10 - (H) FC Basel (Europa League)04/10 - (A) West Ham United (Premier League)
Regarding the Europa League, I doubt if many of us know anything about CSKA Sofia and FC Basel. To that end, who knows what to expect. I think we`d all be delighted with a draw at Sofia and home win to Basel.
No one thinks we have a prayer of lifting the Europa League trophy, but I`d say in response that European competition is a funny animal.
Many of the bigger clubs in the competition are disinterested as a result of not qualifying or being knocked out of the Champions League. They simply won`t concern themselves with making much of an effort.
A good draw could see us go much further than anyone expects. Should we lose to Sofia and draw/lose to Basel, however, I think our exit from the competition will be inevitable, which might change our approach to the remaining fixtures.
As far as the Carling Cup is concerned, I must admit that I couldn`t care less. Ultimately, this is the oh-by-the-way competition of English football and I`m not going to waste much ink discussing the Man City match. Win it. Lose it. Don`t care.
Just get ready for the Arsenal match scheduled three days later. Premier League still has to be the focus. We`ve already got the away-win monkey off our backs with the Portsmouth victory.
That`s not to say that Fulham are suddenly road warriors, but I think the win against Everton might inspire us to go to the Molineux and come away with three points.
I`m not as optimistic about our home fixture against Arsenal. Yes, we defeated them at Craven Cottage last season, but I fear that`s not likely to happen again. Still, on our home patch, we stand a decent chance of getting a point.
West Ham… well what can you say - we just can`t seem to beat them. Statistically speaking, their run against us can`t last forever and for some odd reason I feel like this might be our year. Even away, I think we can at least grab a point.
It`ll be a tough run. We could collapse under the pressure or shock everyone by succeeding in all three competitions.
I would be content with a win at Wolves and draws against Arsenal and West Ham (or whatever combination resulting in 5 points), and at least one win in the Europa League.
The Carling Cup… well, I think I`ve made my position clear on that front.