Premier League | Craven Cottage | Sat 21 Dec | 3pm
The latest test of swashbuckling Man City’s mettle on the road.
Previewing Manuel Pellegrini’s men had almost become metronomic; the Blues routinely dismissing teams at home before coming a cropper on their travels.
- Everton 4-1 Fulham (Prem)
- Fulham 2-0 Aston Villa (Prem)
- Fulham 1-2 Spurs (Prem)
- West Ham 3-0 Fulham (Prem)
- Fulham 1-2 Swansea (Prem)
MAN CITY FORM
- Leicester 1-3 Man City (LC)
- Man City 6-3 Arsenal (Prem)
- Bayern 2-3 Man City (CL)
- So'ton 1-1 Man City (Prem)
- WBA 2-3 Man City (Prem)
Ahead of City’s home game against Norwich on November 2, this correspondent noted that their “away travails” could be “temporarily put to one side, with their home form imperious in the Premier League.” The Blues went on to stick seven past the Canaries, only to then go and lose 1-0 at bottom-dwelling Sunderland.
Last weekend witnessed the latest Etihad embarrassment as table-topping Arsenal became the third team this season – after Spurs and Norwich – to leak at least six goals. But the signs are that the team with the best squad in the Premier League are finally getting their act together, having not lost since that single-goal defeat at Sunderland on November 10 and won seven out of their last eight matches in all competitions.
Back-to-back away wins may have come against second-tier opposition in Leicester and half-arsed, for the second half at least, opposition in Bayern Munich, but the confidence gained will stand them in good stead as they bid to find some consistency on the road.
A third straight away success should come at Craven Cottage, where the Blues are unbeaten in seven visits, but Fulham are also a side perked up by recent performances.
Rene Meulensteen’s installation as manager has witnessed spirited, but unsuccessful, displays against Spurs and Everton either side of a 2-0 home win over Aston Villa.
Much-maligned Bulgarian Dimitar Berbatov has been back to his flamboyant best, stroking home nonchalant spot-kicks in each of his last two outings. But it’s the Cottagers’ defence that will have to shine on Saturday if they are to have any hope of stopping City’s free-flowing attack, even without injured marksman Sergio Aguero.
Fulham have managed just one clean sheet in their 22 Premier League games against the Blues and none in the last 18 meetings, the last coming in a 0-0 draw in March 2004.
Aguero’s calf injury could rule the in-form Argentine out for as long as eight weeks, according to Pellegrini. However, the Chilean can still call upon Alvaro Negredo and Edin Dzeko – on target at Leicester in midweek – to find the back of the net. Pellegrini’s biggest problem is at right-back; Pablo Zabaleta injuring his hamstring on Tuesday to join Micah Richards on the treatment table. Either Dedryck Boyata or James Milner are expected to deputise, while Matija Nastasic and Stevan Jovetic are nearing returns from calf problems.
Fulham could welcome back Fernando Amorebieta after a hamstring injury, but fellow defender Brede Hangeland and striker Hugo Rodallega are not yet ready for action.
Player to watch: John Arne Riise (Fulham)
The onus will be on the former Liverpool defender to take advantage of City’s vulnerability at right-back and help Fulham press higher up the pitch. Riise was influential down the left during the Cottagers' home win over Aston Villa, setting up 2 chances and succeeding with 2 of his 3 take-ons against Paul Lambert’s men.
And Fulham’s flying left-back has also mucked in defensively since Meulensteen took the reins three matches ago, making a game-high 11 ball recoveries and chart-topping 5 interceptions in the home defeat to Spurs.
"It's not a game people will expect us to win but we're prepared to go out to try and get the victory," the defender told the club's official website. "City isn't an easy game and the three games after that [against Norwich City, Hull and West Ham] are probably bigger for us as they're against teams around us in the table. Those three games are massive but we'll certainly be aiming to cause an upset against City."
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- City 2-0 Fulham (Prem, Jan 13)
- Fulham 1-2 City (Prem, Sept 12)
- City 3-0 Fulham (Prem, Feb 12)
- Fulham 2-2 City (Prem, Sept 11)
- City 1-1 Fulham (Prem, Feb 11)
Meulensteen watched Sir Alex Ferguson cross swords with Pellegrini twice as his assistant in 2008, as Man United played out two goalless draws with Villarreal in the Champions League, but now he faces ‘the Engineer’ in direct combat for the first time.
The Dutchman took plenty of positives out of last weekend’s 4-1 loss at Goodison Park, with three goals in the final quarter of an hour from Seamus Coleman, Gareth Barry and Kevin Mirallas flattering the Toffees after Fulham had fought back to level at 1-1.
“I was quick to say to the players ‘make sure you don’t let yourselves get down and that we should look at the things we’ve built over the last two weeks’. We need to carry on and we need to take it game by game.”
TIPS & TRENDS
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Facts and figures
- Man City have won 6 and lost 0 of the last 9 matches with Fulham in all competitions.
- Fulham have conceded first in 10 of their last 12 home games.
- City’s last 6 wins against bottom-six clubs have all been to nil.
- City have opened the scoring in 8 of their previous 12 away games.
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No Aguero, but no problem for steadily improving City. 0-3.