Boro build up

Friday 11 January 2002

Middlesbrough travel to Fulham on Saturday looking for their first top flight win at Craven Cottage since 1950. The 1985-86 season saw a comfortable 3-0 win for the Teessiders in south London in the old Second Division, where they had been beaten by Fulham on their previous three visits. Both clubs were relegated that year - this time around it is the visitors that require the points the most to distance themselves from a similar fate.

Fulham already look to have done enough to be safe - even though they could well be drawn into a survival scrap it seems unlikely that there are not three Premiership sides from the 10 below them that will eventually succumb. Certainly 2001 ended in a way that suggested otherwise, as just one win from seven matches up to the New Year saw Jean Tigana's side within five points of the drop zone.

Thankfully Horacio Carbonari was on hand to save the day, as his own goal ensured Fulham's 2002 started with a win over Derby last week. The Cottagers are grateful for whatever outside assistance they can lay their hands on at the minute - their 38% shooting accuracy is the joint-worst in the Premiership and they have just 20 goals as a consequence. They may well rue their recent failure to snap up Valencia's John Carew.

Admittedly a more impressive level of accuracy in attack (43%) has done Middlesbrough few favours.

They have scored a goal fewer than their hosts this weekend - perhaps the Boro attackers are mindful of Mark Crossley's advancing years and have got used to shooting straight at him in training so as not to put his back out. Getting stuck in also seems to be something of a problem for the north-east club.

Despite their precarious league position they have attempted, and won, fewer tackles than any other top-flight outfit. Head hard-man has been Robbie Mustoe and his 71 tackles attempted must be one of the main reasons he has featured in every Boro game this season, following his stop-start 2000-01 campaign.

He will need to have his wits about him this weekend when faced with the fancy footwork of Fulham's international contingent. The Londoners have set off on more dribbles than any other team in the division, with Luis Boa Morte and Steed Malbranque among the top 10 keenest players to win those one-on-ones in the league.

On paper this would seem to be a Fulham win.

MOST SIGNIFICANT STATS:

Premiership draw specialists Fulham, with clean sheets in half their League games, face a shaky Middlesbrough, who've suffered four defeats in their last five top flight games, lost the last three in a row on the road, and stand one place above the relegation zone.

Both these clubs were unable to see off lower League opposition in the Third Round of the FA Cup. Middlesbrough have the plum 4th Round draw, home to Manchester United, if they can beat Division One Wimbledon after drawing 0-0 at Selhurst Park.

Fulham needed a late late equaliser from Steve Marlet to avoid becoming another FA Cup victim of 2nd Division Wycombe at Adams Park. A trip to either Grimsby or York awaits the winners.

The reverse fixture was called off three weeks ago for safety reasons. Therefore this is the first ever meeting in the Premiership. They have never played each other outside the League, and its exactly 50 years since they last met in the top flight when Fulham recorded a 6-1 win - their biggest victory over the Teessiders.

PREVIOUS MEETINGS:

Total 40: Fulham wins (16) Middlesbrough wins (19) Draws (5)

HEAD TO HEAD NOTES:

This is the first Premiership match between these two and first League meeting for five years.

The last meeting of Fulham and Middlesbrough in the top flight was exactly 50 years ago, and was also Fulham's biggest win. The Cottagers won 6-0 on 19 January, 1952 in the old First Division.

The Teessiders have only won once in the top flight at Fulham. That was 1-2 in the former Division One on 6 May, 1950.

Middlesbrough are unbeaten in five home and away League meetings with Fulham.

The Londoners have won three of the last five home games against the Teessiders.

'Boro are seeking their second win in three visits to Craven Cottage.
The Cleveland club have won only one of their last five trips to Fulham since 1983.

FULHAM:

Current League position 10th 27 points 7 places and 5 points above Middlesbrough.

Best Scenario at final whistle - Up 2 to 8th If win, while Charlton (away to Blackburn) and Aston Villa (home to Derby) both lose.

Worst Scenario at final whistle - Down 2 to 12th If lose, while Sunderland (away to Everton) at least draw and West Ham (home to Leicester) win

Sequences

2 UNDEFEATED - 1 Prem, 1 FAC [1 win, 1 draw]

2 AT HOME WITHOUT A WIN - both Prem [1 draw, 1 loss]

Recent Form

1 win in 6 League and Cup games

1 victory in last 5 Premiership matches

5 wins in last 11 top flight encounters

4 draws in last 8

2 draws in last 5 top division clashes

Lost 1 of last 4

2 defeats in last 12 Premier League duels

Failed to score in 3 of the last 5 Premiership games

Kept 6 clean sheets in last 8 League outings

10 CLEAN SHEETS - all in Prem

FAILED TO SCORE 8 TIMES - all in Prem

2 RED CARDS - all in Prem

EVER PRESENTS: 2, Steve Finnan and Steed Malbrangue

STARTED EVERY GAME: 1, Steve Finnan

COTTAGERS NOTES:

One of two clubs to have drawn most Premiership matches - 9. The other is Chelsea.

Drew most home Premiership games - 5.

One of two clubs to have kept most clean sheets in the top division - 10. The other is Leeds.

MIDDLESBROUGH:

Current League position 17th 22 points 1 place and 3 points above the drop zone

Best Scenario at final whistle - Up 5 to 12th If win by two clear goals, while Blackburn (home to Charlton) draw, and Bolton (home to Chelsea), Everton (home to Sunderland) and West Ham (home to Leicester) all lose

Worst realistic scenario at final whistle - Cannot fall from 17th
But would fall 1 to 18th if lose, and Derby (away to Aston Villa) win with a mammoth 12 goal swing

Sequences

LOST LAST 3 AWAY PREMIERSHIP MATCHES

NOT WON IN 4 AWAY - 3 Prem, 1 FAC [3 wins, 1 draw]

GONE 6 LEAGUE GAMES SINCE A WIN

SCORED ONE GOAL IN EACH OF LAST 2 LEAGUE GAMES

NOT CONCEDED IN 2 GAMES [190 mins / 3 hrs 10 mins]

Recent Form

1 win in last 6 League and Cup games

2 wins in last 8 Premiership encounters

1 draw in last 7

2 draws in last 8 League clashes

Lost 4 of last 6

4 defeats in last 5 top flight duels

7 CLEAN SHEETS - all in Prem

FAILED TO SCORE 9 TIMES - all in Prem

3 RED CARDS - all in Prem

EVER PRESENTS: 1, Robbie Mustoe

STARTED EVERY GAME: 0

Potential Career Milestones - If he plays, Colin COOPER will be making his 650th club appearance of his career

If involved, Robbie MUSTOE will be making the 350th League appearance for Middlesbrough

'BORO NOTES
Need to score three goals to total 300 in the Premiership.

MAN IN THE MIDDLE - MIKE DEAN Heswell, The Wirral

Other officials: Assistant Russell Booth - Assistant Andy Martin - 4th Official Barry Knight - Delegate Joe Worrall.