Writer: Andrew Joyce
Date:Friday January 21 2011
After a battling draw at Wigan last weekend, Fulham return to home turf this Saturday to take on Stoke City. It`s a fixture that gives Fulham the opportunity to add three points to their total as they seek to put some daylight between themselves and the relegation zones. Hopefully, it`ll be a thrilling encounter.
Stoke are, as we all know, a physical team and matter weren`t helped by the shenanigans that followed our previous two clashes where the managers refused to shake hands.
Ahead of the clash, Chris Baird has spoken about the battle ahead, commenting to the media,
"It`s always a battle against Stoke. They`ve got that threat from set plays and to be fair to them they`re very good at it."
There goes my wish for a lovely game of football then!
Mark Hughes will once again, although they are back in training, be without Bobby Zamora and Philippe Senderos. Hopefully though, Moussa Dembele will be available for selection.
Mark Schwarzer remains away, on international duty, so once again David Stockdale will deputise.
One huge question though is whether Andrew Johnson will start. The striker looked back to his best at Wigan, snatching a late equaliser, with all that old sharpness looking to have returned.
It remains to be seen whether our one January transfer window signing so far, Steve Sidwell, gets to make his Fulham debut after getting no further than the bench last weekend.
Also unavailable due to injury is our young defender Briggs.
With Stoke set to launch a aerial assault every time a throw-in is won anywhere near our area, Brede`s height and subsequent strength in the air could be a decisive factor in us keeping a clean-sheet!
Tony Pulis may have secured a place in round 4 of the FA Cup by making ten changes for the trip to play Cardiff City, in midweek, but he`s sure to revert to his normal starting eleven for the trip to Craven Cottage.
One very likely starter is their recent recruit, from Aston Villa, John Carew.
Three players are on the injured list - Gudjohnson, Higginbotham and Sidibe whilst Ricardo Fuller has, since last week, left the club!
Probably having the best season of his career, could provide our full backs with a tough afternoon if the ball is allowed to reach him on a regular basis.
The record between these two sides, in recent years is pretty even. Looking back at the last five Premier League games, each club has won two.
Look out for Chris Baird, he`s only ever scored twice for Fulham and yes, you`ve guessed it, both have come against Stoke City!
The officials presiding over this fixture are Stuart Atwell (referee), Simon Long and Peter Kirkup (assistants) and Andy D`Urso (fourth official)
Stoke, at home, represents a golden chance to secure three valuable points. Our opponents are a robust physical side but I`d be very surprised, or even horrified, if we failed to take all three points, 2-0 to Fulham!
Next weekend witnesses the fourth round of the FA Cup, a round where Spurs visit Craven Cottage in what should be a thrilling London derby!
Date:Friday January 21 2011
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