Fulham v Stoke City – Match Preview
When Fulham and Stoke met at the Britannia Stadium November Martin Jol accused Tony Pulis’ men of ‘bullying’ their way to a 1-0 victory – something the Potters boss was quick to refute. But with just three wins in their last 18 Premier League games Jol could do worse than command his players to take a leaf out of their opponent’s playbook. Although never considered a team in any immediate danger of going down, they sit just six-points above the relegation zone and some quarters of the Fulham faithful will be nervously looking over their shoulders. Scoring goals has been their main problem of late and Jol needs to get Dimitar Berbatov back in tune sooner rather than later if they’re to extinguish those niggling fears. Brede Hangeland’s availability is also a boost and his aerial prowess could transpire to be a deciding factor for the Cottagers.
Stoke’s travelling supporters will be hoping the trip to the Thames won’t be in vain after seeing their side win just once in 22 away games. Its often said the Potters are a shadow of the side that frogmarch teams into submission at the Britannia Stadium and are well aware that results on the road have to quickly improve if they’re to make a late charge for a top-seven finish and an outside chance at European qualification. Victory over Reading a fortnight ago ended a winless run of six games and a rare three points on their travels would put them within touching distance of their ultimate goal.
Sascha Riether is back in contention for Fulham after illness forced him out of the 0-0 draw at Norwich two weeks ago.
Brek Shea and Marc Wilson have recovered from long-term injuries and are in the Stoke squad, while Cameron Jerome has shaken off a knee problem.
What the managers said…
“In some cases we’ve done well, in some we didn’t do so well,” he admitted. “Against Norwich, for example, that was disappointing. We played well, we controlled them, but nothing happened in the final third of the pitch and that is something we worked on and tried to improve on. If you keep it simple I always feel that Hugo Rodallega stretches defences and has got the pace, Bryan Ruiz is the passer and Dimitar Berbatov is the sort of lower target man. But when Mladen Petrić comes on, he scores goals – he’s probably the goalscorer at the Club. But he’s a bit similar to Berbatov, so it’s not easy to find the right combination.” Martin Jol admits he still hasn’t struck the right balance in the Fulham attack (Official club website)
“I think we’ve played better away from home than we have in all previous years in the Premier League, but we just haven’t had the results. There’s only been one or two where we have let ourselves down. Some of our performances have been as good, if not better, than the best we have put on in the past. It is a concern because we have a smashing group of lads and we just need that bit of luck as much as anything else.” Tony Pulis plays down Stokes poor away record (The Sentinel)
Pre-Match Statistic: Fulham haven’t lost in the the six games Dimitar Berbatov has scored in this season.
Prediction: Fulham 1-1 Stoke City