The Whites welcome Sunderland to the Cottage on Sunday (4pm) looking to extend our unbeaten run to six matches. The form guide makes Fulham strong favourites going into the clash, and we do have a good record against the Wearside club in recent years; we are undefeated in our last six games against the Black Cats, winning three and drawing three. In fact, Fulham have conceded just two goals in the previous eight meetings between the sides.
Fulham will be without Chris Baird after the midfielder picked up his fifth booking of the Barclays Premier League campaign at the Emirates on Saturday, while there are doubts over the fitness of Mahamadou Diarra and former Stadium of Light favourite Kieran Richardson.
Sunderland will be hoping three of their key players win their injury battles ahead of the trip to SW6. Captain Lee Cattermole hurt his knee in the warm-up ahead of last week’s defeat at Everton, top scorer Steven Fletcher went off injured in the same game, while last season’s scorer at the Cottage, Phil Bardsley, is also a doubt for Sunday.
Sunderland have suffered a slow start to the new campaign, with a record of one win, six draws and three defeats from their 10 games so far.
Goals have been the main source of frustration for Martin O’Neill’s men as they have only managed to find the back of the net on seven occasions – making them the Premier League’s least potent side. Of those seven, Fletcher has been responsible for five, with the others coming courtesy of Adam Johnson and a Demba Ba own goal in the Tyne-Wear derby.
After losing their last three matches to Middlesbrough (in the Capital One Cup), Aston Villa and Everton, the Black Cats will be desperate to get a positive result at the Cottage as they aim to move away from the relegation zone which they are currently hovering perilously close to.
Last time out
Fulham 2-1 Sunderland 06.05.2012
Our final home game of last season yielded three points courtesy of goals from two of our players of the campaign. Clint Dempsey opened the scoring with a fine free-kick on 12 minutes after Mahamadou Diarra had been stopped unceremoniously in his tracks 25 yards from goal. Dempsey stepped up to bend a beautiful set-piece beyond Simon Mignolet at his near post.
Sunderland had barely finished celebrating though when they found themselves trailing once again. Mousa Dembélé evaded a challenge before gliding towards goal and letting fire from just outside the box. The strike was fierce and took a deflection off Michael Turner before finding the top-left corner of Mignolet’s net.
Damien Duff, Dempsey, Dembélé and Pavel Pogrebnyak all had decent chances to wrap things up for Fulham but couldn’t find that elusive third goal, while Fraizer Campbell wasted two glorious chances to secure a point for Sunderland as we held on for a well-earned victory.
Players to watch
Adam Johnson: An undoubtedly talented winger who arguably didn’t reach his full potential at Manchester City after joining from Middlesbrough. Now back in the North-East following a big money move over the summer, Johnson is enjoying regular game time once again and scored in his last outing, against Everton in a 2-1 defeat at Goodison Park.
Steven Fletcher: If he plays on Sunday, Fletcher will be the man that Sunderland look to for goals. The Scotland international has scored regularly wherever he’s been and has racked up around £25m in transfer fees throughout his career. A strong forward who is good in the air and lethal with either foot, Brede Hangeland could have his hands full with this striker.
Sebastian Larsson: After occupying the opposite wing to Alexander Kačaniklić for Sweden on Wednesday evening, there’s a strong chance Larsson could fill a central midfield position on Sunday, with Johnson and James McClean taking up the wide roles. Larsson is a set-piece specialist and Martin Jol will no doubt have had his side working on defending the Swede’s deliveries.
Bet Butler odds
Fulham are huge favourites going into the game with Bet Butler pricing us at 1.76 to win the match. Sunderland are a long shot at 5.4 - not a huge surprise considering they are without a win in 13 away matches - while the draw is available at 3.9.
With goals being a regular feature in our matches this season, Bet Butler are offering odds of 1.88 on there being over 2.5 goals, whereas you can get 3.15 on there being more than 3.5 strikes.
As usual, Dimitar Berbatov is favourite to open the scoring at 5.5, and if you fancy Steve Sidwell to score the game's final goal - as he has done three times already this season - then the odds are 17.0.
For Fulham to be winning at full-time and half-time, odds of 2.8 are available.