Head-To-Head

Friday 23 November 2012 15:35

Fulham head to Staffordshire to take on Stoke City on Saturday (3pm), with a squad somewhat depleted by the events of our defeat by Sunderland last weekend.

Captain Brede Hangeland starts the first of his three-game ban, while Bryan Ruiz and Alexander Kačaniklić withdrew from the Black Cats loss with injury and also miss out.

There was more positive news regarding Mladen Petrić, though, whose injury suffered in the same game was not serious enough to rule him out of contention for our clash at the Britannia.

Chris Baird and Mahamadou Diarra make timely returns from suspension and injury respectively to add some bite to the centre of our midfield, although Saturday’s game comes too soon for Kieran Richardson and Simon Davies.

Stoke will be without the injured Marc Wilson after the defender broke his leg against Sunderland last month. His replacement at left-back, Andy Wilkinson, was withdrawn from action against West Ham United on Monday, so Ryan Shotton could take that role on Saturday.

Dean Whitehead is also available for our hosts after serving his suspension, but Michael Owen and Rory Delap are set to miss out.

The opposition

Stoke’s home form has made the Britannia Stadium an intimidating venue for visiting teams, with the Potters unbeaten in their last 12 Barclays Premier League matches on their own patch.

Saturday marks their third consecutive match against a side from the capital, after they collected four points from their games with Queens Park Rangers and West Ham.

Tony Pulis’ side have been solid, if unspectacular, so far this season and they currently sit 14th in the Premier League table, taking 13 points from their 12 matches. Victory over the Whites at the weekend could see them leapfrog us in the standings.

They are the league’s draw specialists with seven stalemates already in the 2012/13 campaign. Their resilience is further enforced by a mean defence which has been breached on just 11 occasions, with only one goal being shipped at the Britannia.

It’s at the other end of the pitch where Stoke are struggling, though, as they have found the back of the net just 10 times, making them the joint second-lowest scorers in the division.

Last time out

Fulham 2-1 Stoke City 11.02.2012

Pavel Pogrebnyak marked his Fulham debut with the opening goal in this game at Craven Cottage over nine months ago.

‘The Pog’ announced himself to the Cottage faithful in spectacular style when he killed John Arne Riise’s shot in the 16th minute before rearranging his feet and firing home superbly with a firm left-footed effort.

We doubled our lead just before the half-hour mark when Clint Dempsey smashed a thunderbolt towards the Putney End goal that had Thomas Sorensen beaten all ends up. Dempsey celebrated but the effort went down as a Sorensen own goal after going in off the keeper’s back once the Texan’s effort had hit the bar.

Shawcross ensured a nervy finale when he glanced in from a corner on 78 minutes but the Whites held on for the three points.

Players to watch

Steven N’Zonzi: A highly rated central midfield player who currently has the national sides of both France and Congo vying for his allegiance following a series of impressive performances for the Potters. Signed from Blackburn Rovers in the summer, N’Zonzi tends to sit in front of the back four, but is also a threat going forward.

Jonathan Walters: The striker-cum-winger has successfully made the transition from the npower Championship to the Premier League after joining from Ipswich Town over two years ago and has since become a mainstay in Pulis’ side. A physical presence, Walters possesses quick feet and is a dominant aerial threat.

Peter Crouch: The former England international has often found himself operating in a loan striking role this season and has found the back of the net on five occasions in all competitions. Stoke will no doubt be looking to utilise the frontman’s aerial prowess on Saturday, especially in the absence of Hangeland.

Bet Butler odds

We go into the match as underdogs with our official betting partner putting Stoke at 2.22 favourites, with a Whites win priced at 3.7. The draw is available at 3.5.

Stoke's matches this season have averaged the league's lowest amount of goals per game and Bet Butler fancy another low scoring event at the Britannia on Saturday. If you expect Fulham to nick the game 1-0, they are offering odds of 11.5.

As per usual, Dimitar Berbatov is our favourite to score first at 8.0, while Mladen Petric is available at 9.0.