Match Preview: Liverpool vs. Fulham
Fulham looked poised to end a real bad spell with 3 points against Newcastle, but fell right back into the muck after a frankly pathetic performance at Loftus Road. Being your most hated rival’s first win in December isn’t exactly something that’s been easy for fans to stomach, but Fulham have been known over the years to play up – or down – to their competition, so we could be in store for a good one.
State of Fulham:
It hasn’t been pretty. 7 points since October 27 to be exact. Injuries have piled up, and certain players’ form is dipping as well. It’s going to be essential to play well and sharpen that form, since Fulham have a gruelling stretch around Christmas, with 3 games in an 8-day span.
Speaking of form and injuries, Mark Schwarzer hasn’t been his best in the last few matches, and Neil Etheridge has picked up an injury. All that has led to David Stockdale being recalled from Hull just days after Jol said publicly he’d be happy to see David stay at Hull for the season. It will be very very interesting to see who gets the start this weekend. I’d put my money on Schwarzer, but don’t count out the youngster-who-isn’t-so-young-anymore. And with Stockdale now on the bench, it will put that much more on both the Aussie and the manager to give him a chance if Schwarzer isn’t up to snuff.
On other injury fronts, the club will have to see if Sascha Riether can start, thanks to the hamstring knock he received early against QPR, but it looks promising. Mahamadou Diarra missed the QPR match and we’ll see if he’s fit enough to return. Bryan Ruiz is still a no-go, which is the most painful for Fulham, as the creativity has been missing dearly. But Ruiz has found it increasingly difficult to keep himself on the pitch. Another massive miss is Steve Sidwell, who is out for a match with a yellow card suspension. Expect to see Karagounis get a start because of that, and he’ll most likely be subbed out after 65 minutes or so.
State of Liverpool:
Liverpool suffered a relatively embarrassing defeat to a lowly Aston Villa side that mastered the counter attack and took the game 3-1 despite getting dominated for most of the match. Liverpool’s finishing wasn’t good, although they had trouble even getting quality shots off in the first place. They’ll look to get the ball into the box in a more cutting edge fashion this time around.
Many are saying the club is too reliant on Luis Suarez, which I think holds water, but then again Fulham fans aren’t really ones to talk with Dimitar Berbatov being THE guy at the club right now. Martin Jol has already made it clear that he will focus on stopping Suarez, as that’s most likely to be the key to beating this Liverpool side.
Anfield’s finest will be receiving a few major squad boosts for this match. Jose Enrique will be back from his injury, which could be bad news for Stewart Downing. Also returning is Nuri Sahin from a broken nose. Sahin had lost his place in the side recently, but Rodgers may be likely to make changes after last week’s poor showing.
Stats of the Match:
-Mark Clattenburg returns to the pitch after 2 weeks as the fourth official. He’s handed out 31 yellow cards in just 8 matches. He’ll have to keep an eye out for Luis Suarez’s diving board.
-In the last 7 matches between these two teams, there has only been 1 draw. Fulham have won both of the last 2 meetings by a 1-0 score.
-Steve Sidwell is 1st in the Premier League with 50 tackles won, those being off 90 attempts.
-Jonjo Shelvey has the most shots in the Premier League without a goal, at 22.
-Steven Gerrard has delivered 63 crosses, most for any midfielder in the league.
-Fulham have 53% of their shots on target, the highest rate in the league.
-Fulham have been shut out in 8 of their last 20 away matches.
I feel that this side is fantastic at playing up or down to their competition, so they’ll bounce back nicely from QPR. I also, however, think that Liverpool may bounce back from Villa as well. It will be a very good match, and I think Fulham can steal a point. They need more than a point at this juncture, but I think it’s all they’ll be able to get against a much improved side at Anfield. I think it goes 1-1 early and sticks at that scoreline for the rest of the match. However, if Liverpool score too early, it could throw Fulham completely off track and then it may get ugly.