Much was expected of Fulham when they signed Dimitar Berbatov the summer and up until October the Cottagers looked dead certs for a top half finish with the sultry Bulgarian conducting the Thames orchestra. But a run of one win in make games has seen Martin Jol’s men have plummeted from 7th to 13th in the space of two month, and find themselves in real danger of being dragged into a relegation scrap. That will become an even starker reality should they fail to beat Southampton on home turf.
The Saints’ mini-revival came to an end at the weekend when they lost to Sunderland but their is genuine hope amongst supporters that Nigel Adkins can guide them to safety and avoid an immediate return to the Championship. Tightening up at the back has contributed to their recent turnaround as Adkins managed to fill his sides defensive cracks without sacrificing their attacking flair. However they will need to improve on road if they’re to survive having lost six from seven games away from St Mary’s
Steve Sidwell returns from suspension to ease Fulham’s midfield crisis but Bryan Ruiz (hamstring) is rated as 50/50. Mladen Petric and Mahamadou Diarra are also doubtful.
Southampton captain Adam Lallana looks likely to absent for a second game running due to knee ligament damage. Jay Rodriguez or Guly Do Prado are expected to deputise.
What the managers said…
“We wanted that win last week against QPR but I don’t think we were good enough. Against Liverpool we didn’t show our strength and hopefully we can pick up the points not because it is a vital game for us. It is a vital game for them as well. We are in a good position, we have got a good cushion but if we don’t pick up the points in the next week or so then we’re really in a relegation battle with other teams.” Martin Jol says Fulham could be dragged into a relegation fight (London Evening Standard)
“All of the games are going to be pressurised so what we’ve got to make sure we do is regroup and get ourselves ready for Fulham. They’re good. They play a 4-4-1-1 very well with (Dimitar) Berbatov between the lines. They’re well organised defensively and as a unit. It’s similar to what we go and do so they’ll be a team that is difficult to break down, but one we believe that we can score against.” Nigel Adkins expects a stiff test on the Thames (Yahoo Eurosport)
Supporters should expect a stalemate given Fulham have failed to win their last seven games on Boxing Day – drawing three and losing four – while Southampton haven’t won at Craven Cottage since 1947.
Prediction: Fulham 1-1 Southampton
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