Writer: Andrew Joyce
Date:Saturday February 20 2010
After the thrill of beating Shakthar Donetsk in midweek, it`s back to the bread and butter of the Premier League with a fixture against high-flying Birmingham City.
There`s no doubting that Alex McLeish has turned Birmingham into a durable outfit but have the wheels started to fall off in recent weeks?
The reason we ask is that after going on a long unbeaten, history making for the club, run, they`ve been beaten twice on recent trips to London, at Chelsea and West Ham, what chances Fulham becoming the third London club to inflict a defeat on Birmingham?
After the win on Thursday evening, Roy Hodgson enthused about our display, calling it our best performance in Europe. But, on the eve of returning to Premier League action, Roy has issued a degree of caution, remarking,
"We`ve reached a level but sometimes it`s easier to reach it than stay there. We`ve set a high standard for ourselves and now we must make sure we don`t fall below that."
But the success we`re having in the FA Cup and the Europa League also comes with its own inherent problems with Roy fearful of his team running out of gas, remarking,
"We have a lot of tired players. Birmingham will be a very different kind of team from the team we played in the Europa League - but they will be every bit as difficult to beat."
Once again wise words from the gentleman of the Premier League! Let`s hope that everybody`s legs can last out for a few months more, it`d be a tragedy to see all this promise come to nothing!
Roy Hodgson goes into this fixture without the long term injured John Pantsil, Andrew Johnson and Clint Dempsey. But there is a piece of good news with Paul Konchesky almost returning to full fitness although we suspect that Nicky Shorey will take the left back slot for this fixture. In fact Shorey for Stephen Kelly is probably the only change that Roy will make from the eleven that started in midweek.
Fulham stating eleven (probable):- Schwarzer, Baird, Hughes, Hangeland, Shorey, Duff, Murphy, Etuhu, Davies, Zamora, Gera
Can he keep this incredible run of form going, stay tuned to find out!
Alex McLeish brings his side to London hoping to reverse a trend that has seen his side beaten twice here in recent weeks.
Missing from his squad, through injury, are Carsley, O`Connor and Tainio.
McLeish will select his starting eleven from the following squad:-
Hart, Carr, Johnson, Dann, Ridgewell, Larsson, Bowyer, Ferguson, McFadden, Jerome, Benitez, Taylor, Phillips, Michel, Fahey, Parnaby, Vignal, Gardner.
Rumours suggest that Birmingham have negotiated a second season long loan spell, with Manchester City, for a keeper that is fast carving out something of a reputation as someone special.
As for results, in 11 Premier League encounters between the two sides Birmingham have the upper hand with 4 wins compared to the 2 of Fulham with the other 5 having been drawn.
Phil Dowd is the referee hoping to keep things civil on Sunday afternoon!
Our confidence must be sky high after that midweek win and recent results have started to suggest that Craven Cottage is becoming something of a fortress again. Birmingham will be a good test for us but I`m confident that providing we`re focused and not thinking of that trip to the Ukraine then we can get the victory. It might be close but Fulham will be the ones celebrating on Sunday evening, 3-2 to Fulham!
Next week sees two more important fixtures in our calendar, in midweek we make the long trip to the Ukraine for the second leg of our Europa League tie with Shakhtar Donetsk and then next weekend, it`s a long trip north to face Sunderland.
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Date:Saturday February 20 2010
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