Head-To-Head

Friday 28 September 2012 14:49

Fulham are back in action on Saturday afternoon, hoping to consolidate their position in the top six by recording a third consecutive Barclays Premier League victory in front of another sell-out crowd at Craven Cottage.

Recent victories over West Bromwich Albion and Wigan Athletic have propelled Martin Jol’s Team up to sixth place in the league, but to achieve a hat-trick of wins, Fulham will have to defeat the current champions, Manchester City.

Jol and his Team have every reason to be full of confidence approaching Saturday’s fixture at Craven Cottage, having secured maximum points from their first two home games of the season. Fulham’s defence remained watertight in both fixtures whilst the goals flowed, with eight scored in just 180 minutes of football on the banks of the Thames.  

However, whilst Fulham has enjoyed great success against the Premier League’s elite clubs at Craven Cottage in recent years, victories over City have proved hard to muster, with the Club’s last win recorded way back in November 2005.

In fact, the Whites have only picked up three points from their last six meetings with City in West London since the 2005/06 season, but last year’s memorable comeback to secure a 2-2 draw was one of the most enthralling home matches of the 2011/12 campaign.  

After back-to-back league wins, Jol is expected to name a familiar starting XI this weekend, but there was some disappointing news on Friday afternoon when the Manager confirmed that Dimitar Berbatov will be out of action for two weeks through injury.

The Manager’s hand will, however, be strengthened by the return to full fitness of Bryan Ruiz and Mladen Petrić. Jol also hinted on Friday that Giorgos Karagounis will play some part in Saturday’s contest after completing 45 minutes during Fulham’s Under-21 victory over Manchester City on Monday.  

Roberto Mancini’s team arrive in West London having drawn three of their opening five league games this season and Fulham will be wary of a backlash following Tuesday night’s Capital One Cup defeat to Aston Villa at the Etihad Stadium. 

Mancini believes his team should be two points better off in the Premier League, but having seeing his side concede 16 goals in eight matches this season, the Italian has spoken this week of the room for improvement in City’s defending ahead of Saturday’s clash at the Cottage.

Predicting Mancini’s selection is far from straightforward. Only three players - Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany and Yaya Toure - have started all five of City’s league matches this season.

Whilst Hart’s position between the sticks is all but guaranteed, things become far more difficult to predict in front of the England goalkeeper, and the formation Mancini will select.

If Mancini opts for a four-man defence, Kompany could be partnered by any one of Matija Nastasic, Joleon Lescott or Kolo Toure in the centre of the rearguard. On either flank of defence, Pablo Zabaleta and Maicon are competing for the right-back position, whilst Gael Clichy and Aleksander Kolarov fight for the left-back berth.

In midfield, Mancini really is spoilt for choice. After being rested for Tuesday night’s Cup defeat, Yaya Toure must be considered a certain starter in midfield but from there Mancini has a plethora of world-class talent to select from.

The depth of choice on offer to Mancini will see Scott Sinclair, Gareth Barry, James Milner, Samir Nasri, David Silva and Javi Garcia competing for the remaining positions available. Jack Rodwell is unavailable due to injury. 

In attack, Carlos Tevez has started four out of five of City’s league matches this season, but after playing 120 minutes alongside Mario Balotelli on Tuesday night, it would be no surprise to see Edin Dzeko lead the line alongside Sergio Aguero. 

Bet Butler Match Odds:

Martin Jol’s Team will certainly upset the odds this weekend if they claim all three points against the Citizens, but the Club’s official betting partner, Bet Butler, has some interesting odds for Fulham fans feeling confident of a home win. 

Fulham to win the match 2-1 is rated at 17/1, whilst a high-scoring 3-2 victory for the Whites is available at 42/1.

Fans looking for an outside bet might consider Brede Hangeland heading home from a set piece first at 41/1.

Supporters looking for a more conservative bet could bank on a repeat of last season’s 2-2 home draw, which is available at 15/1 with Bet Butler.

Supporters wishing to place a bet can visit the Club’s official betting partner, Bet Butler, for all the latest match odds.