It`s a short trip across London, this Saturday, for Mark Hughes and his squad. Fulham travel to Upton Park to take on a West Ham side that appears to have turned their troubled start to the season around. After taking four points out of the last six, with a draw at Stoke and a win at home to Spurs, this could be the stiffest test yet as we prepare to keep our unbeaten, in the Premier League this season, run going.
West Ham away, as the form book shows, is a hard trip for Fulham and our Hungarian international, Zoltan Gera, has this to say about the trip to East London to face the Hammers,
“They have a new manager and some new players and I think they need time. It`s going to be a tough game for us, no question.”
I think Zoltan has hit the nail squarely on the head there! It will be tough but one we can win!
West Ham Team News:
Avram Grant raided the transfer market this summer trying to bolster a squad that had flirted with relegation the previous campaign. Amongst those he bought to Upton Park were two players he had under his wing at Portsmouth, in Fredrik Piquionne and Tal Ben Haim, others arriving included Thomas Hitzlsperger, Victor Obinna, Winston Reid, Lars Jacobsen and Pablo Barrera.
Out of those Hitzlsperger has yet to play a Premier League game this season whilst the others have flirted with a permanent place. But there are signs that Piquionne and Obinna are both now starting to assert their influence in games.
Missing through injury, as well as Hitzlsperger, will be Collison, Hines and Kruucz.
Grant will also have Kieron Dyer fit again for selection after the player recovered from his latest knock, one of a catalogue that have blighted his career.
Player to watch: Scott Parker
The former Chelsea and Newcastle player has been rock solid this season and his displays have only served to emphasise why so many clubs would like him in their ranks and why West Ham were so desperate to hang onto him.
Fulham Team News:
Mark Hughes is once again bereft of top-quality strikers with Bobby Zamora, Andrew Johnson and Moussa Demble all side-lined for varying lengths of time. Also absent is Philippe Senderos, another log term casualty.
Hughes, with reference to his on-going striker problems, will have to decide whether to persist with two forward thinking midfield players pushed forward or whether to opt for the more than capable Diomansy ‘Joe` Kamara. Our feelings are that Hughes will opt for Kamara as a lone striker and choosing to pack the midfield to stifle West Ham.
In defence, Stephen Kelly is once again likely to be preferred to the out of sorts John Pantsil whilst Carlos Salcido looks set to continue to establish himself as our new left-back following the departure of a certain Paul Konchesky to Liverpool.
Not available for selection, in addition to those named are Stockdale and Stoor.
Gazing at our crystal ball, we reckon Hughes could opt for the following starting eleven:-
Schwarzer, Kelly, Hughes, Hangleand, Salcido, Etuhu, Murphy, Davies, Duff, Dempsey, Kamara
Player to watch: Carlos Salcido
The Mexican full back has made quite an impression since arriving and the Fulham support seem to have taken him to their hearts already. Upton Park should present a whole new challenge but we reckon our Mexican will be up for the job!
Match Facts & Stats
Fulham go into this match on an unbeaten run. We may have only accumulated a solitary win but we`re up there alongside Manchester United as the only Premier League side yet to suffer the indignity of a defeat.
West Ham, on the other hand, started off the season by making their worst start in their history and conceding three goals a game in the process. In the last two fixtures though their form has picked up and they got a draw at Stoke whilst beating Spurs at home, giving them a much needed four points. But they still reside second from bottom of the Premier League with only a beleaguered Everton side below them.
In Premier League meetings between the two teams, Fulham have only notched up 2 victories in 14 meetings, definitely time to change that isn`t it!
The man in black / green is Andre Marriner who will be assisted by Darren Cann and Martin Yerby with Andy D`Urso acting as the fourth official.
Trips to Upton Park are never easy; the volatile home support gives the place a 1980`s feel. Our form, going into this one, has been respectable but we`ve yet to win on the road this season and if I`m not mistaken, we`ve yet to win away from home for some twenty-odd games. Is Upton Park the venue where this is going to change? I doubt it, if I look at things taking those rose-tinted spectacles off; I have to admit that I reckon this`ll be yet another draw, 1-1!
Next up for Fulham, after the international break, is a home fixture against Tottenham on Saturday October 16th.