Craven Cottage, London,
May 10, 2011
0025 hours IST (+0530 GMT)
It has been a steady rise up the premier league table for the Cottagers from London and what seemed to be a monumental task of saving them from relegation has now become a thing of the past. Credit goes to Mark Hughes for being patient with his team and resources and Fulham’s presence in the top half of the table speaks volumes of what this team can do within the silent corridors of football.
A win against a resurgent Reds will elevate Mark Hughes’ team to the 7th spot and one place behind Tottenham; something which not many would have expected in the early part of the season. Fulham have also played their part in contributing to the Premier League melee this season and the fact that they have won six of their last seven league games is testimony to the unpredictable nature of the Premier League.
On the other hand, form has taken a whole a new meaning at Merseyside. Climbing from the 12th spot to the 5th in 16 league games is a feat that any manager would applaud and Kenny Dalglish has done this with some style. Liverpool walk into this fixture securing back to back victories against Birmingham City and Newcastle United and will no doubt, take the field with the aim of finishing as high as possible at the end of the season.A Europa League spot seems imminent, if luck favours the Reds, and then even a Champions League spot could be on the cards; which give the remaining three fixtures a must-win tag. At home, the Reds are again beginning to establish the aura of the Anfield Fortress but away from home, they still look a little shaky, as was seen in their performances against West Bromwich and Arsenal. A win at Craven Cottage would, hence, not only fill their kitty with further points, but would also give them the confidence to perform to the best of their abilities away from home too.
Team News and Tactical Brief
2011 has been a fantastic year for the Cottagers so far. Craven Cottage has served as a safe haven for the London outfit; the team having won 6 out of their last 7 games. The goals might not be flowing in from Fulham’s attack force but the influences of Eidur Gudjohnsen, Moussa Dembele and Bobby Zamora have played a huge role in assimilating goals for the club. Fulham have taken to this united team spirit which has spurred their unexpected rise in the League. Now manager Mark Hughes wants to continue this good run of form and finish the season on a high.
On the injury list for Fulham, one of their most influential players in Damien Duff has been ruled out of the rest of the season due to an Achilles injury. Hungarian midfielder Zoltan Gera and defender Rafik Halliche remained sidelined due to injuries and will play no part in the game against Liverpool. On the other end, the players who checked out of the medical room are Clint Dempsey and Brede Hangeland, both of whom missed the game against Sunderland last week.
With the absence of Gera and Duff, Fulham’s attacking options from the midfield have become a null. This would mean that the brunt of the work would have to be done by Dempsey and Davies on either flanks with ex-Liverpool player Danny Murphy orchestrating play from the centre of the park. It would be a very organized game from Fulham’s end but if they have been watching Liverpool’s previous videos from their past few Premier League games then Hughes would understand that a big responsibility lies on the shoulders of his defensive line. Suarez has proved a menace right from his first game for the Anfield club and it is never going to be easy marking the likes of Suarez and Carroll. Hangeland and Hughes will have to grow owl eyes if they are to stop the new formed duet.
Probable Starting Line-up: Schwarzer, Baird, Hughes, Hangeland, Salcido, Sidwell, Murphy, Gudjohnsen, Davies, Dempsey, Zamora.
There is surely light at the end of the tunnel for Liverpool FC. The club has enjoyed a good run of form in the League after having been knocked out of this season’s Europa League campaign. What remains a mystery though are the club’s ambivalent performances between home and away games. While at home, Liverpool play the way they are known to play; with the electrifying Anfield atmosphere serving as the sacrosanct of what Liverpool stands for. However, those same performances have been diluted on the road. Dalglish knows that had the Reds converted those losses and draws into wins, Liverpool would’ve been a lot closer to the top 4 bracket by now. Nevertheless, Europe still beckons with Europa League spot in striking distance.
The injury column remains pretty much static for Liverpool as they arrive at Craven Cottage. England first choice right-back Glen Johnson made his return to the squad in the game against Newcastle last weekend. Andy Carroll, who suffered a hamstring injury in the game against Arsenal was also given a run out against his former club to regain match fitness. Barring these names, the list still includes Steven Gerrard and Fabio Aurelio.
Liverpool have carved out quite a remarkable teamwork approach since the inception of Carroll and Suarez in the squad. The absence of Gerrard was initially thought to have a regressing negative effect on the team but Dalglish has not only managed to prevent the impact of his skipper’s absence but he has also organized his team in a manner that yields a winning combination of 11 players. And going by Liverpool’s recent run of form, it is implicit that the team will again spare no opposition player on Monday night. A 5-0 thumping of Birmingham City followed by a convincing 3-0 victory over Newcastle has given them the momentum they require to finish this season on a high.
Probable Starting Line-up: Reina, Skrtel, Carragher, Johnson, Flanagan, Spearing, Lucas, Meireles, Kuyt, Suarez, Carroll.
TheHardTackle’s Man to Watch Out For:
Andy Carroll (Liverpool)
Watch out for Carroll!
The big Geordie had opened his scoring account with a double-fire against Manchester City but hasn’t hit top form yet. It is safe to say that there is a lot to expect from Andy Carroll in the coming days. His hold up play will be a huge requirement against an in-form Fulham, but watch out for his heading ability from crosses.
Fulham 0 – 2 Liverpool FC
Liverpool’s rising form so late in the season will surely not cease to exist and going by their goal-scoring rampage, Fulham won’t really pose a threat to their European ambitions. Carroll’s return to the squad gives Liverpool more than enough firepower to crush Fulham and their hopes of finishing in the top-10 this season.
TheHardTackle’s Blast From the Past
Craven Cottage hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for the Reds.