Martin Jol’s Cottagers welcome Saints to West London on Boxing Day.
Fulham are in real danger of being sucked into the relegation mire. Southampton’s mini-revival has abruptly ended. This game and the rest of the festive period will be highly significant for both clubs.
The Cottagers have won just one of their last 10 games. They’ve slumped from seventh in October down to 13th and have to stop the rot. Historically they’re poor away. They’ve won just six of their last 60 games outside Craven Cottage. So their Premier League safety must be earned at home. The next four league games on the banks of the Thames are absolutely vital (Southampton, Swansea, Wigan and West Ham).
If they can reach 30 points by the end of January they should ease their way to safety. But if they continue to perform as badly as they did at Liverpool on Saturday when they missed the competitive Steve Sidwell, then they’ll be in dire trouble very soon.
Dimitar Berbatov has exquisite skill and a sublime touch. But is he the man to dig Fulham out of a hole? Certainly he needs to get among the goals again in this one.
But the Saints have been much tighter defensively of late, conceding just five goals in seven games, coinciding with the return from injury of Jack Cork. Two narrow defeats in their last three games have stopped them inching away from the relegation zone though and they too badly need at least a point.
Southampton haven’t won at the Cottage in 65 years! They’ve lost six of their seven away games this season. But they do have potential game breakers in Rickie Lambert, Jason Puncheon and Gaston Ramirez and won on their last trip to west London – 3-1 at QPR last month.
I can’t see it offering up too much festive fun. It’ll be cagey and tight. If Berbatov is in the right mood he’ll swing it Fulham’s way – but only just.
SOURCE: BBC Sport
Kick-off 15.00 GMT
TV: Highlights, BBC ONE Match of the Day.
Fulham (Possible, 4-4-1-1): Schwarzer; Riether, Hangeland, Hughes, Riise; Kacaniklic, Baird, Sidwell, Richardson; Rodallega; Berbatov.
Out: Etheridge (leg), Ruiz (hamstring), Davies (match fitness).
Tests: Diarra (knee), Duff (unspecified).
Southampton (Possible, 4-2-3-1): K Davis; Clyne, Finte, Yoshida; Schneiderlin, Cork; Puncheon, Ramirez, Rodriguez;
Tests: Gazzaniga (shoulder), Lallana (knee).
Referee: Phil Dowd (Matches 11, R2 Y34).
The two clubs drew 2-2 at St Mary’s Stadium earlier this season, one of five draws from their nine previous Premier League encounters. Jose Fonte scored both of Saints’ goals that day, including a stoppage-time leveller.
Southampton are without a win on their last 12 league trips to Fulham. Their last victory came in a 2-0 triumph in 1947 – one of only two wins in 27 previous visits.
Tomasz Radzinski supplied the Fulham winner the last time they beat Southampton, in September 2004. All three of the Cottagers’ Premier League triumphs against the Saints have come at Craven Cottage.
Southampton’s only previous Premier League victory over Fulham was a 4-2 home triumph in October 2002. James Beattie scored a hat-trick to help Saints recover from being 2-0 down.
Fulham have won one and lost four of 10 previous Premier League Boxing Day matches. Their sole victory was a 2-0 home win against Southampton nine years ago.
Fulham’s victory over Newcastle two weeks ago ended a three-match winless run at Craven Cottage.
Martin Jol’s side have scored in all but one of their last 12 home league matches, Tottenham were the only team to deny them.
Fifteen of the 18 Premier League games involving Fulham this season have seen three or more goals scored.
Southampton have won one and lost five of 11 Premier League Boxing Day encounters. Their only victory was a 1-0 home triumph over Tottenham in 2001.
It’s just two wins from their last 28 Premier League away games (W2 D5 L21) for Southampton.
Saints are yet to keep an away league clean sheet this season (20 goals conceded in seven games). Their last Premier League away clean sheet came at West Brom in a goalless draw in February 2005.
Nigel Adkins’ men have been given the fewest cards in the Premier League this season (15 yellows, 0 reds). They have been issued with just five yellow cards in their last nine league games.
SOURCE: BBC Sport
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