Build up to 'Boro

Friday 23 August 2002

Middlesbrough against Fulham at the Riverside throws up endless comparisons.

A cautious 'Boro drew their opening game 0-0 at Southampton last Saturday, while a rampant Fulham thrashed Bolton 4-1 at their adopted Loftus Road home, and that after conceding a fourth minute penalty.

Both managers are going into their 40th Premiership matches. But while Steve McClaren has seen Middlesbrough win 12 times, and Jean Tigana has witnessed Fulham's 11, the Cottagers need victory here claim 50 top flight points, while a win for the home side would mean the Teessiders had collected 49 points during McClaren's tenure.

Middlesbrough, who made a disastrous start last season with four defeats on the spin, will be hoping for four points from their opening two encounters.

They last achieved that in 2000/2001 when winning 3-1 at Coventry and holding Spurs to a 1-1 home draw. In the same season in the Nationwide First Division, Fulham claimed six points out of six with victories over Crewe and Birmingham - the last time the Londoners achieved such a feat at the outset of a League campaign.

A Fulham win here would take their League points under Tigana over the 150 mark. They have 148 at present.

Should Middlesbrough clean up, it would not only be their fifth successive home win over Fulham but the 80th victory in their all-time Premiership history.

'Boro may not have dropped a home point against the Cottagers in four attempts, but they haven't won in their last five Premiership outings and haven't scored in six hours of top flight soccer.

Fulham, who kicked off their season in mid-July, have recorded four wins and four draws in their eight outings thus far, and on Tuesday take on Bologna in the InterToto Cup Final knowing victory, or a 0-0 or 1-1 draw would be enough to qualifying them for entry to this season's Uefa Cup.

Middlesbrough and Fulham may be meeting in the Premiership for only the third time, but have never faced each other outside the League.

The Teessiders are in line for a fifth successive home win over the Cottagers.

Fulham's one and only top flight win at Middlesbrough was 53 years ago. The Londoners won 1-2 in the League - Division One on 7 September, 1949.

Potential Fulham Career Milestones

Barry Hayles needs one more strike to register 50 goals for Fulham. If named in the eleven, Rufus BREVETT will be making the 400th start of his League career.