Fulham entertain Derby County this Saturday. It is a fixture that pits two of the three teams that currently occupy the relegation slots against each other. Defeat for either team could have drastic consequences as the season starts to unfurl. For Fulham, after spending so much money in the close season, the time has come for Lawrie Sanchez`s side to deliver the goods. One win from nine games simply isn`t good enough, however much we might bemoan our luck and a few dodgy decisions.
Incidentally, this is the fiftieth meeting between the two sides!
On the eve of the fixture, Lawrie Sanchez has spoken about what lies ahead and his words should give us some encouragement,
'We have three games over the next three weeks where we are as good as, if not better than, the teams we are playing and then we play Liverpool away, which is obviously a step up."
'It is very much in our own hands what we get from those games and I wouldn't want to come out of this period in the bottom three. I know they could be famous last words and I'm sure they will be quoted back at me if it doesn't happen but that is what we should be looking to do."
'I have no doubts I can get this club to where I want to go. I certainly believe the current squad is a hell of a lot better than the one I inherited."
Words are fine, but we need the points!
Fulham Team News:
Fulham are still without the injured Lee Cook, Brian McBride, Moritz Volz, Jimmy Bullard, Philippe Christanval, Simon Elliott and Ian Pearce. Kasey Kellor, who called for a tougher approach recently, is likely to get the nod ahead of Anti Niemi between the posts. Up front, it is being suggested that Lawrie Sanchez is looking to start with a striking pair of Diomansy (Joe) Kamara and David Healy for only the second time at the start of a game this season.
Fulham (from): Niemi, Warner, Keller, Baird, Stefanovic, Bocanegra, Hughes, Davis, Smertin, Murphy, Seol, Davies, Bouazza, Healy, Dempsey, Konchesky, Kamara, Kuqi.
Player to watch: Bouazza
Continues to put in some good performances and could well be the one to open up the Derby defence with his lightning pace.
Derby Team News:
Derby (from): Bywater, Griffin, Moore, Malcolm, Teale, Davis, Camara, McEveley, Todd, Oakley, Mears, Pearson, Barnes, Fagan, Howard, Price, Earnshaw, Miller, Jones, Leacock, Lewis.
Player to watch: Giles Barnes
If he`s fit and available for selection it has to be Giles Barnes, the youngster has talent by the bucket-load and it`s only a matter of time before he`s snapped up by one of the bigger clubs. If not, I`ll go for Steve Howard. The target man, signed from Luton Town, has managed to step up through the divisions and can still deliver the goods. His main strength is his aerial ability, a trait that was rumoured to make ourselves interested in signing him this summer.
Match Facts & Stats
History would suggest that Fulham should emerge victorious on Saturday. We`ve only lost one of nine home meetings with Derby since 1952 and that being when the Rams beat us 1-0 on the 2nd April 1969.
At Craven Cottage the record is as follows - Fulham 10 wins, Derby 4 wins and 8 draws. As far as the Premier League goes, the teams have only played each other once at Craven Cottage and that fixture ended in a draw.
Last season we were, off course, in different divisions and thereby didn`t play each other.
Another pointer that suggests that it could be our day is that all of Derby`s points this season have come at home and on the road they`ve conceded seventeen goals without replay!
Phil Dowd from Stoke on Trent will officiate.
Its games like this one that help shape a season. To lose would be a catastrophe and would dampen what little enthusiasm the supporters have for the games that follow this one. To draw wouldn`t be the ideal result but it wouldn`t be the end of the world. To win would give the club, the team and the supporters the lift they need. I just have this feeling that we`ll be too strong for a Derby side that will come to defend and try to nick a goal on the break. If we can get an early goal then perhaps we could be watching the sort of performance we`re craving for, however, in such situations as this one, it`ll inevitably be tight and this fan can see the home side winning 2-1 thereby easing the pressure a little bit.
Fulham travel to Wearside to take on Roy Keane`s Sunderland side next weekend.