Fulham v Derby

Friday 24 August 2001

The Division One champions had the sternest of tests in their first clash of the new campaign and while they succumbed to a narrow defeat on Old Trafford soil, Jean Tigana's side revealed enough potential to make the rest of the division stand up and take notice.

And they confirmed that they are not just in the top flight to make up the numbers with a solid performance and 2-0 victory over Sunderland on Wednesday, cracking in 15 shots in total.

Meanwhile poor old Derby already have the dubious look of a team susceptible to the footballing disease that is inconsistency. The Rams survived a late Blackburn onslaught to grab maximum points on the opening day, but were solidly beaten by Ipswich in midweek after being reduced to ten men.

If it wasn't for the heroics of current Player of the Year Mart Poom, who thwarted rampaging Ipswich no fewer than nine times, then the Portman Road defeat could have been far more severe. With a dozen stops in total to his name, the Estonian international has been kept on his toes at this early stage of the season.

With Louis Saha lurking upfield Poom may be over-exerted once again at the weekend. The braided Frenchman notched an impressive brace against the champions and a match-clinching strike against Sunderland on Wednesday and is living up to the hype that saw him smash home 27 league goals in the Nationwide League last term.

That said, the visitors have a match-winner of their own in Fabrizio Ravanelli. Since returning to the Premiership the Italian hitman has scored with 50% of his four shots and looks as deadly as when he donned the Middlesbrough shirt back in the 1990s.

And if Derby are to stave off the threat of relegation this year then The White Feather's goals will be of the utmost importance. The Midlands club struggled in front of goal in 2000-01 and as well as carrying the tag of third-lowest scorers, they only hit the target with 42% of their overall efforts. Of the teams that fared worse than this rate, two were eventually relegated.

But it's not all doom and gloom at Pride Park considering that Jim Smith's team had to wait until November to register three points last season. If they can shake off their midweek blues then a comeback in the capital is not beyond them.

Although psychologically the Londoners will have the upper hand having dumped Derby out of the Worthington Cup nine months ago in a rollercoaster game which ended 3-2 to the hosts.

Meanwhile Fulham are showing well in OPTA's early stats reports.

Louis Saha heads the 'shots on target' league with 12. Two ahead of Manchester United's David Beckham.

Fulham are 4th in the 'Most shots inside area' league. 4th in the 'Most successful passes' league below Man Utd, Middlesbrough and Arsenal.

Fulham have suffered more fouls against than anyone apart from Leeds Utd and Arsenal.

Managers Head-to-Head

Jean Tigana P48 W31 D11 L6 Succes Rate 65%

Jim Smith P238 W81 D72 L85 Success Rate 34%

Form over last 10 games

Fulham DWWDDWDLLW
Derby LLLWLLWDWL

No previous Premiership meetings

Facts & Figures

*Derby last won a League game at Craven Cottage in February 1969, one of only four wins in 21 visits.

*Their last League visit, in the old Division 2, ended in a 2-2 draw.

*The teams did meet last season, when Derby visited Craven Cottage in the Worthington Cup, losing 3-2.

*Fulham started life at Craven Cottage in the Premiership with a win over Sunderland on Wednesday - their first home win over Sunderland since 1976.

*If Derby lose it will be their 50th away defeat in the Premiership - in 96 games.

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