Fulham and West Bromwich Albion contest the first Barclays Premier League tie of 2013 when they meet at The Hawthorns on New Year’s Day (12.45pm).
Martin Jol is hopeful that he will have influential winger Damien Duff at his disposal once again, while veteran goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer could also return after missing the weekend defeat by Swansea City. There are still doubts, however, over the fitness of both Mahamadou Diarra and Mladen Petrić ahead of the game.
West Brom have injury concerns of their own, as the prominent midfield duo of Claudio Yacob and Youssouf Mulumbu both sat out the last match with hamstring strains. Vice-captain Jonas Olsson also missed out due to a groin complaint and is a doubt again for Tuesday’s game. Manager Steve Clarke will also have to make late decisions on Steven Reid and Goran Popov, who have also been absent of late.
The Baggies have been the Premier League’s surprise package so far this season and currently sit in the lofty heights of seventh knowing that victory on Tuesday would move them level on points with fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur.
A trip to The Hawthorns has become one of the most daunting away days for teams this campaign, with Albion winning seven of their 10 matches on their own stomping ground this term – a record bettered only by Manchester United.
Their only real blip came recently when they lost three consecutive matches to Swansea, Stoke City and Arsenal, although they did follow those losses up with a draw against West Ham United and back-to-back wins over Norwich City and Queens Park Rangers.
West Brom’s most recent outing saw them defeated 2-0 by Manchester United at Old Trafford courtesy of an early own-goal by Gareth McAuley and Robin van Persie’s stoppage time second.
Last time out
Fulham 3-0 West Bromwich Albion 15.09.2012
The Whites go into Tuesday’s match looking to secure a double over Albion, having emphatically seen off the challenge of the Midlands side at the Cottage back in September.
Fulham took the lead through Dimitar Berbatov’s first goal for the Club and it was certainly a fine way for the Bulgarian to open his account. Great play down the left flank by Alexander Kačaniklić saw the winger bamboozle the West Brom backline before squaring the ball to Berbatov who opened his body up beautifully before bending a sublime effort into the far top corner.
Just six minutes later the visiting team were given it all to do when Peter Odemwingie was sent off for kicking out at Sascha Riether, and the Whites had the points effectively sewn up when we grabbed a second on the stroke of half-time.
More tricky footwork in the area from Kačaniklić saw the Swede tripped and Berbatov stepped up to confidently dispatch the subsequent penalty. Fulham continued to dictate the play in the second period and a late Steve Sidwell strike added some gloss to the scoreline.
Players to watch
Chris Brunt: The West Brom skipper has now surpassed the 200-appearance mark for the club and has been a pivotal part of their recent success. Capable of being deployed in a central midfield role having made his name as a winger, Brunt has a vicious shot on him and is also something of a set-piece specialist.
Zoltan Gera: Having been rested for the trip to Old Trafford, Gera is expected to feature at some point for the Baggies on Tuesday. Guaranteed a fantastic reception from the Fulham faithful following his exploits three years ago that saw him named Player of the Year, Whites fans need no reminding of Zolly’s qualities as a footballer.
Romelu Lukaku: Often utilised as a substitute, Lukaku is relishing his first-team opportunities in the Midlands having struggled for game time at parent club Chelsea. A powerful centre-forward who is devastating in the air, the Belgian has six league goals to his name already this season.
Bet Butler odds
Considering the current league standings, it’s no surprise that our official betting partner have made the hosts favourites for the New Year’s Day clash. Albion are available at 2.05 for the win, with an away victory for the Whites priced at 4.10.
With the attacking players on display, the odds of 1.91 of there being over 2.5 goals appears to be a banker, whereas if you think a goalfest is on the cards then you can back over 3.5 goals at 3.25.