Fulham v Bolton Wanderers – Match Preview

Rock bottom Bolton travel to the capital on Saturday to face Fulham desperate to halt a run of four consecutive defeats and begin their great escape.

Beating the Cottagers in their own back yard will be an extremely tough task considering Martin Jol’s side have lost only two of their seven games at Craven Cottage this season. However their win against Liverpool a fortnight ago was only their second win on their own turf and first since thrashing QPR at the start of October. New boss Jol has had a difficult start to life on the Thames seeing his side excel in the Europa League but falter on the domestic front. Last week’s defeat away at Swansea will have disappointed the Dutchman with midfielder Clint Dempsey playing a key role in their downfall. The American, who had struck the winner in their last home game against the Reds, offered the Swans a helping hand on their way to victory scoring an own goal and missing a late penalty to go from hero to villain in the space of a week. Finding the net certainly has been Fulham’s Achilles heel this season with their goals for column displaying just 16 in their 15 Premier League games. A reported fall out with Bobby Zamora has further depleted Jol’s striking options with Dempsey and Moussa Dembele likely to continue in attack with Bryan Ruiz still considered too raw for the top flight. Supporters will be expecting their side to arrest their poor goal scoring record as beleaguered Bolton.

The Trotters have endured a shocking campaign so far slumping to the bottom of the league after winning just three games all season. It’s astonishing to think Owen Coyle’s side contested an FA Cup Semi Final at the start of the year but could end up staring down the relegation barrel when 2011 reaches it’s climax. There was a real sense of optimism following their opening day win against QPR but things have rapidly gone downhill since their with Saturday’s home defeat against Aston Villa their 12th of the season. Apart from the three games they were successful in performances have been woeful with Coyle unable to stop the goals flying in at the wrong end. The ease in which Villa controlled the game on Saturday highlighted the frailties that exist in Bolton’s back four with the experienced trio of Paul Robinson, Gary Cahill and Zat Knight offering a meagre level of protection to goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen. Injuries to key players hasn’t helped Coyle but the fact his players motivation appears to recede every week points the finger at his ability to provide the dressing room with the motivation necessary for them to pull themselves away from danger. He needs to get his team organised and make them harder to break down starting on Saturday against Fulham. A win could prove to a turning point in their season with winnable games against Blackburn, Newcastle and Wolves all forthcoming during Christmas.

Fulham – 14th

Last Five: Lost 2-0 v Swansea (A), Won 1-0 v Liverpool (H), Drew 1-1 v Arsenal (A), Drew 0-0 v Sunderland (A), Lost 3-1 v Tottenham (H)

Potential Starting X11: 12. D. Stockdale 2. S. Kelly 14. P. Senderos 5. B. Hangeland 3. J. Riise 11. B. Ruiz 29. S. Davies 20. D. Etuhu 23. C. Dempsey 30. M. Dembele* 8. A. Johnson

Injury News: Mark Schwarzer will miss a large chunk of the season after sustaining a neck injury whilst Danny Murphy, Damien Duff and Steve Sidwell also remain sidelines.

Key Player: Moussa Dembele

With strike partner Zamora now out of contention the goalscoring burden now lies heavily on the talented shoulders of Dembele. The Dutchman has impressed in flashes this season and will be expected to be Fulham’s source of creativity along with chief net buster with captain Danny Murphy out injured. He should definitely bag at least one against a fragile Bolton back four.

Match Fact: Fulham haven’t lost in their eight meetings with Bolton and have won four along and drawn the same amount.

Bolton – 20th

Last Five: Lost 2-1 v Aston Villa (H), Lost 3-0 v Tottenham (A), Lost 2-0 v Everton (H), Lost 2-1 v West Brom (A), Won 5-0 v Stoke (H)

Potential Starting X11: 22. J. Jaaskelainen 2. G. Steinsson 5. G. Cahill* 12. Z. Knight 4. P. Robinson 7. C. Eagles 6. F. Muamba 21. D. Pratley 19. M. Davies 24. D. N’Gog 14. K. Davies [C]

Injury News: Bolton can add Ivan Klasnic and Nigel Reo-Coker to an injury list that already has nine first team players on it.

Key Player: Gary Cahill

Keeping the goals from flying in hasn’t been Cahill’s strong point this season as he finds himself in a Bolton side struggling to fight their way out of a never-ending relegation battle. The England defender’s form has been patchy this season and he’ll need to be at his very best to keep the likes of Dembele and Dempsey from inflicting more misery on the Trotters.

Match Fact: Bolton haven’t beaten Fulham in the Premier League since 2007 and you’ll have to go back even further for their last league victory at Craven Cottage with that coming in 1992 when both were plying their trades in the Old Division Two.

Last Time at Craven Cottage

Premier League 27 April 2011

Fulham 3-0 Bolton

Dempsey (15, 48)

Hangeland (65)

Attendance: 23,222

PREDICTION

Fulham are starting to come into a bit of form going into the hectic festive period and should have enough to see off a Bolton side who continue to lurch towards relegation. Rock bottom and unable to lift the confidence it’s going to be a tough for christmas for the Trotter and expect their suffering to continue on the Thames.

Score: 3-0