The FourFourTwo Preview: Fulham vs Crystal Palace
A London derby of contrasting fortunes…
Crystal Palace are a team on the rampage. Having leaked three goals to Liverpool on Monday (a rarity for Tony Pulis's revamped team) they quickly fought back in arguably the game of the season, drawing level in 11 decisive minutes that all but crushed Brendan Rodgers' title hopes. It's not the first time Palace have played kingmaker this season: Chelsea's Premier League ambitions also took a dent at Selhurst Park when they were defeated 1-0.
- Stoke 4-1 Fulham (Prem)
- Fulham 2-2 Hull (Prem)
- Spurs 3-1 Fulham (Prem)
- Fulham 1-0 Norwich (Prem)
- Aston Villa 1-2 Fulham (Prem)
CRYSTAL PALACE FORM
- Palace 3-3 Liverpool (Prem)
- Palace 0-2 Man City (Prem)
- West Ham 0-1 Palace (Prem)
- Everton 2-3 Palace (Prem)
- Palace 1-0 Aston Villa (Prem)
For most clubs in Palace's position, this fixture would represent a precursor to a summer break – give a few departing faces one last run around the block, try out some kids. But Pulis is very much a man with an eye on the next charge. Comment has already been passed on how he sees the club's progression next season; going out on a high will tee his team up for an optimistic summer.
Not for Felix Magath, though. Relegated last Saturday, his players had the fight kicked out of them weeks ago. Losing a two-goal lead to Hull at Craven Cottage in April was arguably the final nail in their coffin.
A 4-1 defeat against Stoke in the following fixture was a horror show; Fulham lacked both organisation and heart, a shadow of the side that once challenged for European honours.
"It is four years since I played in a European Cup final and, if I am honest, I do not recognise anything from what we did back then," said centre-half Brede Hangeland. "That was probably the best Fulham team of all time and the club have changed drastically since then.
"A lot of things have changed. The style of play and how we did things worked really well for us then and I do not really know why we moved away from that. We had a really good style of play, work ethic and the right values. I do not see much of that at the moment."
For Palace, Cameron Jerome should be available for selection following an illness that kept him out of the Liverpool game. Likewise, Fulham striker Hugo Rodellega could be fit for selection after missing his side's definitive defeat to Stoke last weekend through illness.
Player to watch: Yannick Bolasie (Palace)
Against Liverpool on Monday, Bolasie was a flier, stretching Rodgers' defence on the break with a turn of speed that shifted the balance of play in the closing stages of the second half. It was his quick feet that made Palace so dangerous on the counter-attack. As Liverpool looked to improve their goal difference for the league showdown weekend, Bolasie was able to invade his opponent's half at breakneck pace.
Speed is a strong point for sure, but Bolaise remains a rough diamond. He could still develop into a top-class winger, though he lacks the killer final ball required at the highest level; his decision making, particularly in possession, can be frustrating. Against a Fulham defence rocking on their heels, however, he could clean up.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Palace 1-4 Fulham (Prem, Oct 13)
- Fulham 3-1 Palace (Prem, Jan 05)
- Palace 2-0 Fulham (Prem, Oct 04)
- Palace 0-2 Fulham (Div 1, Mar 01)
- Fulham 3-1 Palace (Div 1, Oct 00)
What can you say about Pulis this season? Having been deemed surplus to requirements at Stoke, he has rejuvenated a Palace side that seemed destined for the drop. Forget Rodgers: Pulis is the outstanding candidate for this season's most impressive manager – not that he's taking time to bask in the plaudits. "This is a smashing club with fantastic support and potential, but it's a way behind what it should be," he said after the 3-3 draw with Liverpool on Monday.
"If you look at the training ground and the stadium, if you look at everything behind the scenes, the infrastructure, it needs an upgrade.
"It was the same situation when I was at Stoke. I had a magnificent chairman in Peter Coates, who backed me and allowed me to build a club over seven or eight years, and that's what you want."
An entirely different mood hangs over Magath these days. Now in charge of a Championship side, it's his task to restore Fulham's top-flight status, but the drop has proven painful. "It is one of the worst days I ever had," he said, after Fulham's defeat to Stoke at the weekend. "I will speak to the owner and we can start to come back. I want that chance. You can imagine this is one of the worst days I have ever had. I was very confident that we could avoid relegation, until today. I was convinced that we would have a great chance to avoid it."
Facts and figures
- 10 of Fulham’s 13 home games against middle-third teams since start of last season have had 3+ goals.
- Fulham have drawn the first half in 11 of their last 16 home games.
- 8 of Palace’s last 10 away matches have had more goals in the second half than first.
- Palace have won 8 and drawn 3 of their last 11 matches against bottom-half teams.
Palace to pile on the misery in a 2-0 win.