Swansea City make the trip to Craven Cottage on Saturday (3pm) with Michael Laudrup’s side looking to build on what has been a promising 2012/13 campaign so far.
The Swans go into Saturday’s encounter with 25 points and a positive goal difference, and with just two defeats in their last 12 outings the team from South West Wales head to SW6 in confident mood.
That said, they could well line-up against the Whites without the impressive Miguel Michu - the Barclays Premier League’s joint-top scorer with 13 goals – who limped out of their Boxing Day clash at Reading with an ankle ligament problem.
If the Spaniard misses out, then Laudrup (pictured right) could well call upon Danny Graham, who has started just twice since September. The striker did impress in both games against the Whites last season, though, giving Brede Hangeland and co afternoons to forget.
Fans’ favourite Angel Rangel missed out on Wednesday’s visit to the Madejski Stadium, while midfielder and fellow key man Pablo Hernandez has not played since the 3-1 home defeat of West Bromwich Albion late last month.
Bryan Ruiz returned for Fulham in midweek, and with Manager Martin Jol forced to reshuffle his pack in recent weeks, the Costa Rican international is a welcome sight. Prior to his injury, Ruiz had enjoyed a fine run of form and looked to have struck up an exciting partnership with Dimitar Berbatov.
The Bulgarian striker ended a run of seven games without a goal when netting in the 1-1 draw with Southampton last time out, and will be looking to add to his six-goal tally against the Swans.
With one win in their last 11 matches, and injury doubts surrounding the likes of Mahamadou Diarra, Mladen Petrić and Damien Duff, Berbatov’s goals could be key. The 31-year-old certainly enjoys the festive period, scoring 15 goals in the 12 Premier League games he has played between the 26th and 31st of December.
This will be the 62nd meeting between Fulham and Swansea. None of the previous encounters have ended goalless, so goals are expected.
Fulham 0 Swansea 3 (Saturday 17th March 2012)
The Welsh club will be hoping for a repeat of last season, when they not only defeated Fulham at the Liberty Stadium, but got the better of the Whites at Craven Cottage too.
The 3-0 win at the Cottage was largely orchestrated by Joe Allen and Gylfi Sigurdsson, who have since departed to Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur respectively.
That day, Swansea (then led by Brendan Rogers) completed an impressive 613 passes. While the manager and players have since left, Leon Britton, so effective in that match, remains.
Fulham started well, with Michel Vorm saving well from Clint Dempsey and Moussa Dembélé, while John Arne Riise whistled one strike from distance narrowly wide.
However, on 36 minutes, the Swans went in front and never looked back with Sigurdsson heading in Scott Sinclair’s cross. Sigurdsson then made it 2-0, combining cleverly with Wayne Routledge before finishing coolly after 66 minutes.
A strike from Allen cemented the win. Allen skipped past the challenge of Philippe Senderos and fired beyond the grasp of Mark Schwarzer from the edge of the box with 13 minutes left on the clock.
Leon Britton (pictured right): The deep-lying midfielder has been an instrumental figure as Swansea rose up through the divisions. He’s the man that makes them tick and a player that rarely wastes a pass – at one point last season his pass-completion ratio of 93 per cent was the highest in Europe’s five major leagues. The 30-year-old has an expert reading of play too, and makes a number of key interceptions.
Pablo Hernandez: The 27-year-old has been out injured, and although the Swans won’t want to rush him back, if Michu misses out then Laudrup may call on the Spain international for creative inspiration. Highly skilful with a clever touch, Hernandez became Swansea’s record signing this summer when moving from Valencia for a reported £5.5m. He hasn’t disappointed either, impressing as a second striker and out wide.
Jonathan de Guzman: Having played under Laudrup at Mallorca, the Canadian-born former Holland Under-21 international renewed acquaintances this summer when arriving on a season-long loan from Villarreal. A player that contributes at both ends of the pitch, making key tackles and passes, the 25-year-old also has three goals to his name so far.
2 Swansea beat Fulham home and away in the Premier League (2-0 and 3-0) last season.
3 The Swans were one of three teams that kept a clean sheet both home and away against Fulham in the Premier League last season, alongside Aston Villa and Manchester United.
7 Fulham enjoyed a 7-0 home win against Swansea in an FA Cup tie back in November 1995. This is the only occasion that Fulham have scored seven goals in a domestic match in the last 43 years.