Premiership action resumes after the international break with Fulham playing host to Portsmouth.
The fixture gives Fulham the chance to emerge from a spell that has seen them not win in five Premiership games against a Portsmouth side that, after being in the top three at one stage, are steadily sliding down the table. In fact, with the fixture being the 150th Premiership game that Chris Coleman has overseen, a win would go someway to moving Fulham towards the supposedly safe mark of forty points.
After sitting back and watching international football dominate the last couple of weeks, the return to Premiership action should go some to calming down Chris Coleman who recently spoke angrily about the ludicrous situation Fulham have faced with regard to a lack of fixtures in recent weeks. Here`s what he had to say, in case you forgot,
‘The fixtures amaze me because at the start of the season you play three games in the first week.’
‘Then towards the end of the season when the players are fighting fit, you have a two-week break and we’ve got just two games in a month.’
Fulham Team News:
The fixture sees several Fulham players reunited with a former club, Alexey Smertin played a season at Portsmouth whilst on the books of Chelsea whilst both Wayne Routledge and Michael Brown spent loan spells at Fratton Park whilst playing for Manchester City and Tottenham respectively. Fulham welcome back Vincenzo Montella after the Italian striker has completed a suspension received for a red card offence against Tottenham whilst Liam Rosenior will be hoping to continue his unique record of having played every minute of every Premiership game this season. Elsewhere in the squad, Matty Collins will be celebrating his twenty-first birthday, our congratulations go to him.
Player to watch: Vincenzo Montella
The Roma hit man, on loan at Fulham, will be keen to make up for lost time after having just finished a suspension picked up after his dismissal against Spurs in the recent FA Cup encounter. Indeed, it is a fact not lost on the striker who had this to say about being eligible for selection again – “The fans will see a lot of enthusiasm from me because I want to demonstrate how eager I am.” – Hopefully Montella can bag a couple of goals to ease the frustration that is still simmering after the recent bore-draw at Wigan.
Portsmouth Team News:
David James Premiership stats mirror that of Liam Rosenior with James also having played every minute of every [Premiership game. Kanu, the subject of a contract debate, is Portsmouth`s top scorer with 12 in total and 10 in the Premiership. Fulham old boy, Sean Davis returns to his former stomping ground having made 198 appearances for Fulham and scoring 20 goals. With regard to absentees, Pedro Mendes will not play due to an ankle injury. Lauren (thigh) and Pamarot (back) have both recovered though and are part of the squad travelling to London.
Portsmouth (from): James, Johnson, Primus, Campbell, Stefanovic, O’Neil, Davis, Kranjcar, Hughes, Taylor, Kanu, Lauren, Mwaruwari, LuaLua, Traore, Pamarot, Mvuemba, O’Brien, Ashdown.
Player to watch: David James
The much maligned former England keeper is having an excellent season. Indeed, a clean sheet against the Cottagers will see the much travelled keeper overhaul David Seaman`s Premiership record of 141. If Fulham are to get those three points they need to claw their way towards safety then their finishing will need to be clinical to beat a keeper who, despite his age, remains at the top end of his profession.
Match Facts & Stats
With Fulham going through a lean spell and Portsmouth having scored only once in their last seven games, the prospects of a goal feast would appear to be slim. However, Portsmouth will point to the fact that the odds slightly favour them with the visitors having not lost to Fulham in their last three games with two wins and a draw. Overall, the historical statistics also favour Portsmouth with the south coast team having beaten Fulham twenty times compared to ten losses. In the corresponding fixture last season Portsmouth cruised to a 3-1 win after Fulham conceded as early as the first minute. In the reciprocal fixture this season, Fulham earned a creditable draw thanks to a strike from Zat Knight.
Mike Riley will take control after having been moved to this fixture after having originally been allocated the Watford v Chelsea clash. Why? Your guess is as good as mine. So far this season, Riley has officiated in seventeen matches issuing 6 red cards and 63 yellow cards.
Far from sitting on the fence, we here at Vital Fulham are predicting a home win with Portsmouth being put on the back foot from the very first whistle. There could be an avalanche of goals but we somehow doubt it, therefore we`ll settle for a 2-1 victory with Fulham edging towards safety and another season in the Premiership.
With Easter coming up Fulham face a trip to Everton on Good Friday followed by a visit from Manchester City on Easter Monday.