We`ve had two weeks to stew since our last little mishap, our last defeat, our last of four on the bounce after such a positive start to the season. The visit of Roy Keane and his Sunderland side to Craven Cottage gives us the chance to get that season back on track, a chance to re-establish our credentials and a chance to get the pundits of our back, those same pundits who are forecasting another season flirting with relegation.
Ahead of the clash, Jimmy Bullard, who today suggested new contract talks would start in January 2009, has been speaking about how results haven`t been going our way despite us, possibly, being the better side on the day, Jimmy had this to say,
“We have been playing well. After wins against Arsenal and Bolton we were flying. We played well in the next three games [against Blackburn, West Ham and West Brom], better than the teams we were playing against perhaps, but not got the results.
‘We’ve got to put it right on Saturday. Our objective is to win because there’s no point playing well all season and losing.’
I guess that`s one way of summing matters up.
Fulham Team News:
Roy Hodgson enters this fixture knowing the pressure is mounting, barring an last minute injuries received on international duty, Roy should have a full squad to choose from. Andrew Johnson, who was suspended for the trip to West Brom, is available again and should resume in an attacking role upfront with Bobby Zamora.
In fact, the starting eleven more or less picks itself, as long as we do have no injury worries from midweek, with the following eleven my favourites to start::-
Schwarzer, Pantsil, Hughes, Hangeland, Konchesky, Davies, Murphy, Bullard, Gera, Zamora, Johnson.
We believe that Roy will make Dickson Etuhu and Julian Gray wait for their full debut and despite several fine performances in a recent reserve win, will not change a starting eleven that looks well balanced.
Player to watch: Andrew Johnson
After the rashness of his dismissal in our last home game, I`m of the opinion that Mr Johnson owes us. I don`t believe all the baloney about him being hard done by. Al I ask is that Andrew scores, as Fulham win, and eases the pressure on his shoulders that builds as you await that first goal.
Sunderland Team News:
Roy Keane will bring his squad to Craven Cottage with two ex-Fulham players in his ranks. Steed Malbranque moved to the north-east via Tottenham whilst David Healy joined Sunderland, from us, in the close season. Out of the two we`d expect only Malbranque to start.
Elsewhere in the side we`ll need to keep a look out for El Hadj Diouf up front. The striker has taken on the role of lead marksman after the excellent Kenwyne Jones picked up a serios injury last season whilst on international duty. In goal for Sunderland will be Craig Gordon a keeper who cost the ‘Black Cats` an absolute fortune when they signed him.
Chairman, Niall Quinn, has been very supportive of Roy Keane with the cheque book and whilst Sunderland may lack any one outstanding star, their work ethic makes them difficult to beat.
Player to watch: Dwight Yorke
Not playing up front these days but in a holding midfield role. Look out for that wonderful smile, a smile that shows that Dwight still enjoys playing his football as he approaches a ripe old age, well for a footballer anyway!
Match Facts & Stats
Four games without a win for us – let’s put an end to it now lads!
A win will see us overtake Sunderland, in the table, giving us a little more comfort!
If we look at the record books we have the advantage over Sunderland in the Premier League with 3 wins compared to their 1 with a single draw.
In all league matches at Craven Cottage, it`s all square with 9 wins each and 4 draws.
Keith Stroud is the man given the job of keeping things flowing!
Last season, against Sunderland, was a low point, a point where we all thought we`d sunk as low as we could. This time around I`m full of optimism, the break has recharged my batteries and I firmly believe we`ll not be lamenting a fifth defeat on the trot but celebrating a win. Sunderland, despite being well organised, big and strong, are no top-dogs and we can impose our style on them and ease to a 2-0 win. Remember where you read it first.
Our next match takes us to the scene of our greatest triumph last season, Fratton Park. Who`ll ever forget those scenes we all witnessed after Murphy`s goal kept us in the Premier League. However, this fixture, thanks to Portsmouth`s UEFA Cup participation will now kick off at 17:00 hours on Sunday 26th October.