Writer: Andrew Joyce
Date:Friday August 31 2007
Fulham entertain Tottenham Hotspur in a Premier League clash this Saturday. The game has a three o`clock kick off and is of paramount importance to both sides.
Both managers are under pressure but for varying reasons. Martin Jol has already seen his board try to pull the carpet from under his feet whilst Lawrie Sanchez will be keen to steer Fulham away from a start that has seen the club have their worst Premier League start in history with a mere three points from four games.
Not strictly related to the game but it pulls at the old heart strings a bit. On becoming a Fulham player Dejan Stefanovic had this to say,
"My agent spoke with Rangers and there was the option to go to Glasgow but once I spoke to Lawrie Sanches I knew Fulham was the club for me. Lawrie has bought in a lot of players and I think the club has a very big future.".
Sanchez will need to revamp his defence after the surprise sale of Zat Knight to Aston Villa. He`ll also be without long term injury victims Bullard, Bouazza and Brian McBride. Also still absent will be Christanval who might be available for selection for the trip to Wigan on September 15th. However, Lee Cook, signed from Queens Park Rangers in the close season may well have recovered from the minor knee surgery sufficiently to take his place on the bench. With Zat Knight no longer available for selection Sanchez may well turn to old-hand Ian Pearce to play in central defence.
In goal, Sanchez will need to decide whether Antii Niemi is fit to return, if not there is every chance that recent signing Kasey Keller will continue in goal, thereby allowing him to play against one of his former clubs.
Simon Davies and Paul Konchesky (on loan) are others that have also played for Spurs. Davies has the chance to notch up a personal milestone by making his 250th league appearance (all clubs) if selected.
Fulham from - Niemi, Warner, Keller, Volz, Baird, Stefanovic, Bocanegra, Davis, Smertin, Bouba Diop, Davies, Healy, Dempsey, Konchesky, Kamara, John.
Now that our attacking options have been diminished, thanks to the McBride injury, the focus will be on the Irish international to continue his scoring form. With four goals, two in the Premier League and two in international competition, Healy has started the season well. Hopefully, this will continue on Saturday.
Spurs welcome back into their squad after injury Michael Dawson, Younes Kaboul and Darren Bent although Ledley King isn`t in contention. Spurs may also be boosted by the availability of Aaron Lennon after the speedy winger has recovered from knee surgery.
Spurs from - Robinson, Chimbonda, Rocha, Zokora, Gardner, Lee, Taarabt, Malbranque, Jenas, Huddlestone, Bale, Berbatov, Keane, Defoe, Cerny, Stalteri, Lennon, Dawson, Kaboul, Bent
The fixture also sees the return of Steed Malbranque to Craven Cottage. The French international is currently Spurs leading scorer (this season) and he should receive a good welcome after playing 211 appearances and scoring 44 goals for Fulham.
Vastly underrated player who can produce the unexpected when most needed. He`s often berated for missing a host of chances before unleashing something spectacular. Fulham will need to be aware of his movement and his ability to get on the end of things.
Both clubs currently have identical records in the Premier League this season of having played four, won once and lost three and also scoring five times. Consequently, neither club has drawn this season, could this be an omen.
Surprisingly, in Premier League games, Fulham have the edge over Spurs on home soil. Spurs have only beaten us once and that came back in March 2002 when Sherringham and Poyet scored in a 2-0 victory fro Spurs.
Last season the fixture ended 1-1 in the Premier League with Montella opening the scoring for Fulham in the 84th minute, unfortunately, we couldn`t hold on and Chimbonda netted a dramatic late equaliser in the 88th minute. The fixture also saw Helguson receive a red card eight minutes into the second half.
Unfortunately, also last season, we were on the end of a 4-0 thrashing in the FA Cup but the least said about that the better!
On a brighter note, Spurs have failed to score away form home this season and have only kept one clean sheet in sixteen away games that being away to Charlton on 7th May 2007.
Home and away
League (including Premier League) Fulham 9 wins, Spurs 26, Draws 11
Premier League only Fulham 5 wins, Spurs 4 wins, Draws 3
At Fulham only
League (including Premier League) Fulham 7 wins, Spurs 11, Draws 10
Premier League only Fulham 4 wins, Spurs 1 win, Draws 1
Mike Riley (Leeds, Yorkshire)
There is a lot riding on this fixture. Fulham don`t want to become residents of the bottom three whilst Spurs will be keen to ease the pressure off of Martin Jol. It`s bound to be fiercely competitive and if Fulham are to claim all three points they`ll need to quell the threat posed by the vibrant front pairing, particularly that posed by Dimitar Berbatov. Despite the pressure, Fulham have played some good football, whilst not always having the best of luck, therefore we here at Vital Fulham are going to go against the flow and predict a home win, 2-1 to Fulham.
Fulham wait two weeks, thanks to international matches before they make the long trip to Wigan for their next Premier League fixture. Spurs meanwhile face a fixture against near-neighbours Arsenal.
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Date:Friday August 31 2007
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