Fulham travel to the Britannia Stadium this weekend to take on a Stoke City side that have more than held their own in the division since earning promotion from the Championship last season. Much of their progress has been achieved on the back of a good home record and they`ll be hoping to keep that going against a Fulham side who have, this season, yet to win away on their travels. But, if progress is measured in results, we have to ask ourselves – is Stoke not the sort of place we should be going to and win?
With Rory Delap instantly decreed as the danger-man courtesy of his howitzer style throw-ins, Aaron Hughes has spoken about the threat they pose remarking,
“The delivery on Delap`s throw-ins is so unique and it goes so far. It doesn`t even need to go in off one of their players, it can go off one of ours through a deflection.”
“It`s a pretty awesome weapon to have and I don`t think you can really prepare for it until the day.”
With a bit of luck, Delap will succumb to that injury he`s carrying.
Stoke City Team News:
Stoke will be sweating on the fitness of their most lethal weapon Rory Delap. After terrorising defences all season with his long throw Delap is in danger of missing out on Saturday with a shoulder injury. He`s been spotted wearing a sling this week and even if he does recover his potency is likely to be affected.
Elsewhere, Tony Pullis is also sweating on the fitness of Salif Diao.
Stoke (from): Sorensen, Griffin, Sonko, Abdoulaye Faye, Higginbotham, Delap, Amdy Faye, Diao, Whelan, Pugh, Cresswell, Tonge, Sidibe, Fuller, Simonsen, Olofinjana, Cort, Davies, Soares, Dickinson, Wilkinson.
Player to watch: Fuller
When he`s on song he makes a real difference to Stoke.
Fulham Team News:
Fulham enter the fixture without any major injury concerns. There`s a fair chance that Roy Hodgson will select the same starting eleven that has served him so well in recent weeks as the side has built up an unbeaten run of five games, namely,
Schwarzer, Pantsil, Hughes, Hangeland, Konchesky, Dempsey, Bullard, Murphy, Davies, Zamora and Johnson.
On the bench, Dickson Etuhu will be patiently waiting for a chance to show what he can do after recovering from the injury that has kept him sidelined.
Player to watch: Brede Hangeland
The Norwegian has bee very much in the news this week with various rumours in circulation regarding a possible January transfer window move. With Stoke likely to launch an aerial bombardment, courtesy of throw-ins by either Delap or Sonko, his height could prove to be a crucial factor.
Match Facts & Stats
With it being Stoke City`s first season in the Premier League it doesn`t need me to tell you there are no statistics relating to clashes between the two sides. In all divisions though, for clashes at between the two sides on Stoke turf, the record stands at Stoke 14 wins, Fulham 10 wins and Draws 7
Stuart Atwell, the youngest referee in the history of the Premier League will be the man in charge.
Yesterday I was accused of being cocky at suggesting that the visit to Stoke would see our first away victory of the season. In my defence perhaps I should point out it`s more a case of simply being confident. Our record on the road might leave a lot to be desired with only 3 points gained but the squad are buoyed by the recent five game unbeaten run.
Stoke will put up a good fight and it may not be pretty at times but I`m confident Fulham can survive the expected aerial onslaught and impose their passing game on the home side. After keeping clean sheets at Anfield and Villa Park I don`t expect a feast of goals, therefore, don`t be surprised to see Fulham sneak this one by a single goal!
Next Saturday Fulham entertain Middlesbrough at Craven Cottage.