Well, now that the club is safe and in the Premier League, the rest is all gravy. We’re playing for finish now, and it’s a tight race in the middle of the table. After 2 straight 3-0 wins, including one rare one on the road, the club is bringing its run of good form back to the Cottage. This is an important match since Fulham are attempting to catch Liverpool in the table.
With a Europa League draw from Fair Play on the horizon for Fulham, the match draws referee Lee Mason, who despite being 11th out of 18 Premier League referees in matches, has given out the 4th most yellow cards (90 yellows in 21 matches) and ranks 4th in card points (1 for a yellow, 2 for a red).
I would hope that Mark Hughes would use these last 3 matches not only to maximize his spot in the table, but also to learn as much as possible about the club in order to get the best possible read on where they need to improve next season. I believe that next season is an incredibly important season, as it has the potential to be a big one for Fulham. Between another Europa League bid and a possible top 10 finish despite missing the team’s best goal scorer for most of the season, there is the potential for a lot of success. But this summer has to go right, and that can only happen if Hughes is able to evaluate his team as much as possible to find the biggest holes and the important players.
State of Fulham:
Fulham received an injury blow with news the other day that Damien Duff would be out for the rest of the season after Achilles surgery. However, the last 2 matches which Fulham won handily were both played without Duff, who was attempting to recover from said injury. So it shouldn’t be too big of a blow. On the flip side, Clint Dempsey is returning and so is Brede Hangeland, so the side should be stronger still.
The two 3-0 wins were excellent, but they seem like a ways away now with a very good Liverpool side on their way to the capital. The last time Fulham hosted Liverpool, the Reds finished with 9 men after Philipp Degen and Jamie Carragher both were sent off and Fulham grabbed the win 3-1. In fact, the last 9 times these teams have met, one side has walked away with 3 points every single time.
If Fulham were to pull out wins in their last 3 matches (which I don’t see happening but certainly isn’t out of the question) they would finish with their all-time highest points total.
One last thing, I really hope that Mark Hughes starts Andy Johnson and not Eidur Gudjohnsen. AJ has played exceptionally well the last few matches he’s come on as a sub and Eidur, despite Sparky’s affection for him, has done nothing in my view.
State of Liverpool:
Kenny Dalgish has his biggest decision to make involving newcomer and newly fit Andy Carroll coming into this match. Dirk Kuyt and Luis Suarez are both playing extremely well, and Dalgish sat Carroll (who came on in the 70th minute for Maxi Rodriguez) in the win against Newcastle on the 1st of May, in which both Kuyt and Suarez had goals.
As far as knocks go, Daniel Agger (knee injury, out for season) and Stephen Gerrard (groin surgery, out for season) are both long-term injury misses, and Martin Kelly is a doubt with a hamstring injury (tore it against West Ham in March).
Fulham will win if…
…they play good defense and keep Suarez and Kuyt frustrated. There are a few dubious statistics I would like to share with you that don’t bode well for the home side. First, Fulham have failed to score in 6 of their last 7 league matches against Liverpool. That’s not the one I’m worried about though, since historical data doesn’t bother me as much. The one that I am focusing on is the following: we all know how good the Fulham defense has been this season, especially at home. However, something that I found today that shocked me was Fulham on average give up their first goal in the 31st minute, FASTEST IN THE PREMIER LEAGUE, if you can believe that. If we get a goal down to Liverpool that fast, I believe it’s over. However, if we can keep it at 0-0 for a while I think we have a chance.
I have gone against this team the last few matches (besides Sunderland) and it’s (happily) come back to bite me in the you-know-what. Both these clubs are on a run of good form and I believe this will be an absolute heck of a match. It certainly could go either way, especially being at Craven Cottage. It’s Fulham’s run of good form plus the fact that they’re home plus the fact that I’ve wrongly doubted them a few too many times this season that lend themselves to my 2-1 victory for Fulham in front of the home crowd. Would certainly be an exciting and promising win.
Other interesting notes:
-Fulham are the only Premier League club yet to concede a goal by penalty this season
-Fulham have won 6 of 7 at home, drawing the other. During those 7 matches, only Blackburn has scored against Fulham.
-Liverpool are the only Premier League club to score in all of their 2011 fixtures
-Andy Johnson and Daniel Murphy are both 2 goals shy of 50 career league goals
-Fulham need 1 more draw to tie the all-time club mark for draws in the PL (16 in 1999-2000 season)
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