After the triumphant march into the group stages of the Europa League it`s time to return to the bread and butter of the Premier League with an intriguing fixture at Villa Park against Martin O`Neill and his merry band of Villains!
Ahead of the clash we here at Vital Fulham are mortified that we`ll produce a performance similar to the one produced against Chelsea last Sunday after we appeared to be drained by European football the previous Thursday, therefore we have a message to Roy Hodgson,
“Please Roy, not again, last Sunday was just too painful to watch; surely lightning doesn`t strike twice does it?”
Aston Villa Team News:
After losing Gareth Barry to Manchester City and Martin Laursen through retirement, Martin O`Neill has struggled to keep the Villa ambitions on target. An exit from the Europa League, before the group stages, is another blow he could have done without.
But a little confidence may be restored by the signing of Stephen Warnock, from Blackburn, and the impending arrival of Richard Dunne from Manchester City.
Definitely out are pre-season signing Stewart Downing and Wilfred Bouma whilst Curtis Davies is doubtful. Another who may be missing is Luke Young who we understand has been on compassionate leave after the tragic death of his brother on holiday.
Player to watch: Ashley Young
Something of a stop-start player but when he starts he can be unstoppable. Has the ability to pull apart the best in the business, let`s hope Pantsil and Konchesky can cope with his raids down the wings.
Fulham Team News:
Roy Hodgson will be hoping that Danny Murphy will be fit to slot into his central midfield position after picking up an injury against Chelsea, he`ll also be hoping that the rested trio, for the Amkar Perm game, of Clint Dempsey, Bobby Zamora and Paul Konchesky can slip straight back into his starting eleven.
Whether there`ll be a space for this weeks signing, Kagisho Dikgacoi, remains to be seen, a space on the bench perhaps beckons.
Definitely out are Andrew Johnson and Tony Kallio whilst Simon Davies isn`t expected to return just yet after the foot injury that curtailed his involvement last season continues to heal.
Player to watch: Danny Murphy
If passed fit he`ll be the key to our midfield getting the better of the Villa midfield, his incisive passing could open up a Villa defence that still mourns the loss of Laursen.
Match Facts & Stats
If Fulham are to win at Villa Park it`ll bury a hoodoo that extends way back to March 1973 when a 3-2 victory in the old Division 2 gave us the maximum points on offer. But perhaps we should point out that we did beat Villa 2-0, at Villa Park, in the FA Cup in 1999.
The last meeting between the clubs on 9th May 2009 saw Fulham emerge victors 3-1 with the goals coming from Murphy (pen) and Kamara (2) with Ashley Young replying for Villa.
Steve Bennett will take charge of this fixture.
This is a hard one! After having put our customary away game hoodoo to rest in our very first fixture of the season could we possibly win the first two away games on the trot or would that be asking too much?
Villa, touted as possibly the next club, along with Manchester City, to gate-crash the so-called big four have started the season in a strange fashion. Although they pulled off a fantastic result to beat Liverpool, at Anfield, on Monday night, they`ve also lost at home to Wigan and were knocked out of the Europa League last night, on away goals, by Rapid Vienna.
A little part of me hopes we win but common sense can see us grinding out, at best, one of our infamous 0-0 draws that were so frequent last season.
After having played the sum total of three Premier League games (including the trip to Villa Park on Sunday) we take a break for international football. When the Premier League resumes we`ll all be looking forward to a fixture against Everton, at Craven Cottage, a fixture that`s live on Sky Sports.