The FourFourTwo Preview: Fulham vs Aston Villa
Rene Meulensteen's second crack at making his first week as Fulham's new manager a happy one.
Aston Villa’s 3-2 win at Southampton snuck under the radar a tad, given it came on the same night as Everton’s win at Old Trafford, but the result meant the Toffees are now the only team on a longer unbeaten run in the Premier League than Paul Lambert’s side.
- Fulham 1-2 Tottenham (Prem)
- West Ham 3-0 Fulham (Prem)
- Fulham 1-2 Swansea (Prem)
- Liverpool 4-0 Fulham (Prem)
- Fulham 1-3 Man Utd (Prem)
ASTON VILLA FORM
- So'ton 2-3 Aston Villa (Prem)
- Aston Villa 0-0 S'land (Prem)
- WBA 2-2 Aston Villa (Prem)
- Aston Villa 2-0 Cardiff (Prem)
- West Ham 0-0 Aston Villa (Prem)
Villa haven’t lost in five – their best league run in a year. That good form was well and truly killed off by an 8-0 gubbing at Chelsea, so it may be with some trepidation that they head back to west London this Sunday.
Fulham were much improved on Wednesday against Spurs, and although they’re clearly still no Chelsea, they should prove sterner opposition than they would have done just two weeks ago.
The elevation of Meulensteen to the manager’s job appeared to gee-up one or two members of the Fulham squad, with Dimitar Berbatov in particular looking at least somewhere nearer his old best.
While Fulham will have thoughts of a potential relegation scrap on their minds, Villa may be feeling a little more ambitious. Now up to 10th, they could even overtake Man United this weekend if results go their way, with the champions visiting Villa Park seven days later.
Fulham will be unable to call on striker Darren Bent, who is ineligble given that he's on loan from Sunday's opposition. Brede Hangeland is a doubt with the back injury that ruled him out of Wednesday's defeat.
Villa have doubts over Joe Bennett (back) and Ron Vlaar (calf), while longer-term absentees Charles N'Zogbia (calf) and Jores Okore (knee) remain sidelined.
Key battle: Philippe Senderos vs Gabriel Agbonlahor
Senderos will be a key figure in Fulham's back-line, particularly if Hangeland doesn't return. The Swiss performed well against Spurs, making 4 blocks and 7 clearances. The fleet-footed Agbonlahor could cause him more problems - his goal at Southampton demonstrated his touch, pace and finishing in one swift movement.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Villa 1-1 Fulham (Prem, Apr 13)
- Fulham 1-0 Villa (Prem, Oct 12)
- Villa 1-0 Fulham (Prem, Mar 12)
- Fulham 0-0 Villa (Prem, Aug 11)
- Villa 2-2 Fulham (Prem, Feb 11)
Lambert made the bold decision of dropping Christian Benteke for Wednesday’s match on the south coast and the move paid off, with Libor Kozak scoring Villa’s second of the game.
Meuelensteen’s decision to start Berbatov against Spurs, just hours after the Bulgarian’s agent announcent the striker wanted to leave Craven Cottage, was equally brave. Unfortunately for the Dutchman, his star striker couldn’t find the net, but did at least look interested enough to cause Spurs a few problems.
Facts and figures
- Fulham have won just 1 of their last 8 Premier League games against Aston Villa (W1 D4 L3).
More facts at FFT's Fulham vs Aston Villa Stats Zone page
Tips and trends
TIPS & TRENDS
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- Fulham haven’t lost 6 league games in a row since Feb/Mar 2002 and have never gone on a 7-match losing streak in the Premier League era.
- There have been more than 3 goals in all but one of their last 12 home fixtures against middle-third sides.
- Fulham have the worst home record in the league recording just 1 win and a draw in their 7 games at Craven Cottage.
- Aston Villa have been much better away (W3 D3 L1) than they have at home (W2 D1 L4) this season.
- They have opened the scoring in 7 of their last 10 away fixtures against bottom-six clubs.
- Only Everton (7) are on a longer unbeaten run than the Midlands club (5).
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Another improved showing from Fulham, but not enough to beat a confident Villa. 2-2.