After getting back to winning ways with a 2-0 victory over Wigan Athletic last time out, we have another home match this weekend against Aston Villa. Villa are now managed by the Frenchman Gerrard Houllier after Martin O`Neill left them in the lurch days before the season started and have yet to hit the kind of form that saw them rated as possible Champions League contenders last season. However, they still have enough decent players to give us a hard game and the prospect exists for this to be one of the most enthralling games of the season at Craven Cottage, so far.
Aston Villa arrive in South-West London suffering from a mini-goal drought. But the new incumbent of the managerial seat, at Villa Park isn`t too concerned by that, citing that his defence is strong, or in his own words,
“Is the lack of goals a worry? No, because the positive side we`ve conceded only one Premier League goal, an own goal against Sunderland. But yes, we know we have to score goals.”
This could well be a low scoring affair!
Fulham Team News:
Mark Hughes`s squad is slowly starting to be boosted by those who have been out injured. Although Philippe Senderos and Bobby Zamora remain in the rehabilitation period, Hughes has already welcomed back Andrew Johnson and it looks as if Damien Duff will be available for selection this weekend.
Hughes has a couple of difficult decisions to make for the fixture. Does he recall Johnson for his first start since injury kept him out for so long or does he stick with Clint Dempsey and Moussa Dembele in attack? Dempsey was the star of the show last time out and may well have done enough to keep his place. The other conundrum evolves around Damien Duff. Will the Irishman go straight back into the side, probably at the expense of Zoltan Gera or will the Hungarian hang on to his place?
One man who this game has come a game too soon is Dickson Etuhu who should be ready for our trip to Chelsea, in midweek.
Here at Vital Fulham we suspect Hughes will go for the following starting eleven:-
Schwarzer, Baird, Hughes, Hangeland, Salcido, Murphy, Greening, Davies, Duff, Dembele, Dempsey
Player to watch: Chris Baird
The Irishman has been a revelation since Hughes declared his faith in him. Whether it`s been in midfield or at right back, Baird has been a pleasure to watch when it comes to performance and commitment, long may it continue.
Preview Team News:
Since taking over the Villa post, Houllier has rejuvenated the Villa career of Emile Heskey, although he will now have to revert to another plan after the forward picked up a knee injury in training and is now sidelined. With Agbonlahor also sidelined Houllier could be forced to turn to young Nathan Delfouneso with reports coming in that Carew is also crocked.
Also struggling to make it is Steve Sidwell with the midfielder having been laid low with flu this week. Villa`s promising defender, Ciaran Clark hopes to have recovered from a knock picked up in the dour 0-0 draw with Birmingham last time out.
Another of the promising youngsters being churned out by the Villa youth system, Mark Albrighton, is another who may return after an enforced lay-off.
Player to watch: Ashley Young
Coveted by many a club but supposedly staying at Villa Park. Has pace in abundance and can terrify any defence on his day
Match Facts & Stats
History is on Aston Villa`s side in this fixture with Fulham having won only 3 of the 18 games the sides have contested in the Premier League.
But Fulham will be grateful that one of their chief tormentors last season, Agbonlahor who scored three goals, will be absent through injury.
Earlier we mentioned Villa were suffering something of a goal drought, it`s actually 344 minutes since they last hit the net in a Premier League game.
On the road, they`ve also lost 5 of their last 6 fixtures.
Peter Walton takes charge. The men running the line will be Mike Cairns and Martin Yerby with Keith Hill keeping order in and around the technical area.
This will be a tough one and I need to apologise if I suggested in an article earlier this week that Villa were a club in decline, that wasn`t exactly what I meant. But, I digress. This fixture will be a lot tougher than last week, although that can`t be hard considering how poor Wigan were, but Fulham are a decent outfit at home and I believe this is a game we can win, although it will be by the narrowest of margins, a single goal.
Next up is a trip down the road to play our neighbours, Chelsea. It promises to be a thriller!