Writer: Andrew Joyce
Date:Friday April 20 2007
Fulham entertain Blackburn Rovers this Saturday in a fixture of unprecedented importance. A defeat for Fulham will see the Craven Cottage side staring at the abyss that relegation would be.
In recent weeks, Fulham have suffered a dire sequence of results, changed their manager and pontificated that it should be happening to a club like ours, that relegation should even be considered a possibility. Hopefully, we`ve woken up before it`s too late. With tough games against Liverpool, Arsenal and Middlesbrough to end the season, three points against Blackburn would be most welcome.
Unfortunately, our visitors are not in a position to roll over and let us walk away with the three points. After going out of the FA Cup against our near-neighbours, Chelsea, Mark Hughes will be keen for his team to chase down a possible UEFA Cup place, a dream some of us harboured back in August. How things can change when you least expect it?
"This is our biggest game of the season. A win would lift the clouds from above us." Words spoken recently by Liam Rosenior and words that perfectly sums up our predicament. With every game that passes without us winning only results in the cloud getting darker and darker. Three points would, metaphorically, see bright skies above Craven Cottage.
Jimmy Bullard will off course be missing again. Once can only ponder if things had been any different for Fulham and for Chris Coleman if the effervescent midfield player hadn`t of got injured. Also unlikely to participate will be Ian Pearce who will miss the chance to play against his former club. The defender, now approaching veteran status, limped off after having only recently returned from injury, expect Zat Knight to cover. In attack, Montella could start alongside McBride and hopefully give us a return on his vast weekly salary.
Has picked up the good habit of scoring in recent weeks. He has the ability to arrive unannounced in the penalty area, from set pieces, hopefully, Blackburn will be caught out and Carlos will be the one to blast away that dark cloud and herald in the sunshine we all yearn for.
Blackburn will have both Andy Reid and Robbie Savage missing from their squad as both are long term injury concerns. In recent games Mark Hughes has opted to do without their influential midfield player, Tugay, instead opting to use David Dunne. Samba at the back is likely to cause problems with his aerial presence at set-pieces whilst up front; Hughes will need to decide which two out of the following three strikers, Benni McCarthy, Jason Roberts and Matt Derbyshire, he will use. Roberts scored his first goal of the season against Chelsea last weekend whilst McCarthy has had a prolific season with regards to scoring. Derbyshire, on the other hand, is a promising, emerging talent who has a bright ahead of him.
The Norwegian international gave Chelsea all sorts of problems last weekend and in all honesty had a glorious chance to make it 2-1 to Blackburn with a far-post header. Gamst possesses a cultured left foot and is able to drift inside causing defenders all sorts of problems. Fulham will need to be aware of conceding any free kicks in dangerous areas as the Norwegian has developed cunning accuracy with devastating effect.
Now is the time to make history not ponder over it! Lawrie Sanchez takes the helm for his first home game and what better way to start than with a home win. If it means playing a more direct style then so be it. In the reciprocating fixture at Ewood Park, Blackburn emerged the victors, 2-0, courtesy of goals by Nonda and McCarthy.
Overall in fixtures between the two sides at Craven Cottage, Fulham have the edge with 14 wins compared to the 8 of Blackburn with 11 having ended all square.
Graham Poll (Tring, Hertfordshire) - Will want to be the centre of attention!
With Fulham in a run of form that can only be described as desperate, it would perhaps take a fool to suggest a home win. However, I`ve been called worse than that over the years and to remain optimistic I`m going to predict that Saturday is the day our fortune turns around. Blackburn will suffer their second defeat at the hands of a West London club in a week. It may be close, there will probably be only one goal in it but I`m prepared to stick my neck out and predict a 1-0 home win.
Four Premiership fixtures to go as the end of a season we`d rather forget approaches. Next up - Arsenal (a).
Date:Friday April 20 2007
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