Writer: Andrew Joyce
Date:Saturday February 2 2008
Fulham entertain Aston Villa this Sunday in a fixture that is crucial if any hopes of an escape from the relegation zone are to be cultivated. However, we probably couldn`t have hand picked harder opposition than Aston Villa. Whilst they`re not enjoying a spell in the top four (just yet) their away record is top notch, losing just once on their travels, as Martin O`Neill looks to give their American owner, Randy Lerner, just reward for his investment.
The Daniel Cousin thing still troubles me! However, Roy Hodgson remains optimistic that a deal can still be done insisting,
"I`m still hoping the initial decision could be overturned."
Sunday will give the Craven Cottage faithful the chance to watch, in the flesh, some of the many players Roy Hodgson has brought in during the past few days. Likely to start are Hangeland, Andreasen and Nevland. Unfortunately, amongst our other signings, Johnson will probably be too jet lagged to play after flying in form the USA, Stalteri has a dead leg that requires further treatment and Limanen has still to return to full match fitness.
However, it`s still possible, despite all the comings and goings, to sort of select a starting eleven, we here at Vital Fulham suspect Hodgson may well opt for the following,
Niemi, Baird, Hangeland, Hughes, Konchesky, Davies, Bullard, Andreasen, Murphy, Dempsey, Nevland.
The Northern Ireland defender will be keen to turn in a good performance against his former team. Would it be too much to hope that Hughes follows in that great tradition that sees former players score against their former teams?
Fulham will be grateful that one major threat, that of Ashley Young, has been removed, due to suspension, however, this may give their recent signing and ex-Fulham player, Wayne Routledge, the chance to impress on his debut. In defence, ex-Fulham centre half Zat Knight appears to have fallen out of favour with Martin O`Neill preferring to start with Laursen and new England recruit, Davies.
Up front Hangeland will be required to tame the giant John Carew whilst Baird and Konchesky will need to be alert to keep the threat of Gabriel Agbonlahor, another England recruit, quiet.
We expect Villa to start with the following eleven,
Carson, Melberg, Davies, Laursen, Bouma, Gardner, Reo-Coker, Barry, Maloney, Agbonlahor and Carew
This lad has pace to spare and if we`re not careful he`ll carve us apart with his direct running and attacking flair. Hopefully Aaron Hughes will have passed on a few of his trademark tricks to his fellow defenders.
We`ve taken just four points from our last thirty-six available, we`ve registered a mere two wins in the Premier League all season; we`re ridiculed as being favourites. Aston Villa are unbeaten in eight games and are looking towards moving onwards and upwards, we could dwell on what`s happened in the past but why should we, is it not time to look forwards, to look towards survival? Besides, you`re only ever as good as your next fixture, are you not?
Chris Foy will do his utmost to keep things in order.
Week in, week out we hold our heads high and suggest that this will be the week in which we can hold our heads high on a Monday morning and walk into work with a smile on our faces. It`s something we`ve only managed to do on two occasions; sceptics would suggest there isn`t much chance of this Monday morning being any different to most of the others, however, our hope is eternal and perhaps we should remember this lot are only some scruffy club from our second city. Be bole, be brave my father once said to me so this hack is going for a memorable 2-1 win to Fulham as Martin O`Neill and his troops flounder on the banks of old Father Thames!
Our next fixture will see us journey to the land of the smog monsters - Middlesbrough, next Saturday, for another crucial relegation fixture.
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Date:Saturday February 2 2008
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