Another international break done and dusted (thankfully the last until March), and now it’s time to get back to the Cottage for the important stuff.
Fulham welcome a Barnsley side who have lost 4 away games on the bounce, whilst the Whites have won their previous 4 at home and you’d be a brave/incredibly pessimistic soul to bet against both sides stretching their records to 5 in a row.
The Tykes are a shadow of the team that made it to the playoffs last season, having lost Valerien Ismaël to West Brom, and have already dispensed of the services of Markus Schopp and replaced him with Swedish U21 head coach, Poya Asbaghi (who will not be the dugout this weekend), finding themselves only being kept off the bottom by the fact Derby County are making a UK Eurovision points total look half decent.
Of course, Marco Silva will be wary of complacency getting the better of his team, and we can all remember what happened last time we faced Cauley Woodrow’s men on the banks of the Thames. But surely there’s no chance of that happening this time, is there?!
Obviously, this is a Fulham side riding a wave of confidence, whilst Mitro will be floating in on a cloud of fire, determined to punish more unwitting defenders who dare try and stop him from adding to his 20 league goals.
At the time of writing, Marco Silva hasn’t given an update on post-international break injuries, but I can’t imagine wholesale changes from the Peterborough game. Tosin is serving the last game of his suspension, so it’s likely Hector will partner Ream once more. Seri has played 2 games for the Côte d’Ivoire this week and Neeskens was in the DR Congo squad (although only saw one half of action), whilst BDR and Robinson faced off this week in the 2nd of their two matches on the other side of the Atlantic, so it will be interesting to see whether all 4 of them are ready to go again after a fair bit of travelling. Personally, out of those players, I can see Bobby being the one to start on the bench and maybe it’s time to get young Fabio a chance to prove that the rumours around his contract aren’t adversely affecting him.
One switch we can be sure of, is the return of Kenny Tete to the right back spot with Denis Odoi suspended this afternoon. The Belgian has put in some solid performances in the Dutchman’s absence but looked out of sorts at Peterborough before being replaced at half time (most likely to prevent him from being sent off), and Kenny must surely be fit by now if he was being blooded back into the team over the last couple of league games.
SCORE PREDICTION: Fulham 3-0 Barnsley
PREFERRED LINE-UP: 4-2-3-1
H2H LEAGUE RECORD (OVERALL)
- PLAYED – 82
- FULHAM WINS – 26
- DRAWS – 23
- BARNSLEY WINS – 33
- GOALS SCORED – 116
- GOALS CONCEDED – 127
H2H LEAGUE RECORD (HOME)
- PLAYED – 41
- FULHAM WINS –19
- DRAWS – 13
- BARNSLEY WINS – 9
- GOALS SCORED – 69
- GOALS CONCEDED – 41
LAST 5 GAMES
- FULHAM 0-3 BARNSLEY
- BARNSLEY 1-0 FULHAM
- BARNSLEY 1-3 FULHAM
- FULHAM 2-1 BARNSLEY
- FULHAM 2-0 BARNSLEY
BIGGEST WINS AT CRAVEN COTTAGE
- FULHAM 6-1 BARNSLEY (1946/47)
- FULHAM 5-1 BARNSLEY (1955/56, 2000/01)
PLAYERS IN COMMON
Kevin Betsy, David Button, Allan Clarke, Emmanuel Frimpong, Julian Gray, Jonathan Greening, Steve Hayward, Alfie Mawson, Mark Stallard, Andranik Teynourian, Marcelo Trotta, Ryan Tunnicliffe, Tony Warner, Ryan Williams, Cauley Woodrow.
Here’s a Barnsley perspective from the Red All Over YouTube channel ahead of Saturday’s game…
Following Valerien Ismael’s move to WBA over the summer, what were your expectations going into this campaign?
At the start of the campaign we were quietly optimistic that we’d have another good season. We only lost our Manager and two key players so most Barnsley fans had us down for a comfortable mid table finish this season, it currently looks like we may well be wrong but we will see!
Where does the problem lie given your slow start to the season?
Achieving more means expectations go up which is the first issue. Fans may not have expected us to be in the top six again but the majority certainly didn’t have us down for relegation so that adds a pressure onto the team, especially since things have really not gone for us.
Second issue has been injuries to key players and a lack of a consistent side. Our new players in particular are only just starting to play a part and find their feet.
And finally, the biggest issue of all, a head coach in Markus Schopp who just got so much wrong in terms of team selection and tactics. He also heavily criticised individuals in post match interviews and didn’t make any real effort to engage with the fan base. He’s gone now but he’s left us in quite a mess!
This week you announced the arrival of Poya Asbaghi as your new manager. What do you think of this appointment?
Some Barnsley fans wanted to see someone with plenty of Championship experience, like Neil Warnock or Mick McCarthy, but in reality we know that’s not how the club operates these days. I’m hearing very good things from my friends in Sweden who say Poya Asbaghi is a great young coach, who has done a fantastic job at developing young players, particularly in his role as Sweden Under 21s Manager. I’m personally really excited about the appointment. He needs to hit the ground running and pick up results from the first few games so we stand a chance of staying up but I’m fully behind him and think he could do a great job for us.
What’s the first thing that Poya Asbaghi needs to address?
He needs to decide very quickly his best 11 and his style of play and stick with that. We have had zero consistency in our team selections this season which has been a massive part of our down fall. He needs to re-install confidence into the players and make them believe they are the promotion chasing Barnsley side from last season, not the relegation threatened Barnsley side from this one.
It seems like only yesterday that Cauley Woodrow was making his senior debut for Fulham as a teenager in the Premier League. Now 26 years old, what have you made of his time at Barnsley and how high up the football pyramid could he realistically go in your opinion?
Cauley Woodrow is a quality player but it’s been a tough season for him so far. He’s been through many of the highs and lows with us in recent years and stayed loyal to Barnsley, even when he’s had the chance to leave for bigger clubs and more pennies. That sort of loyalty is rare in football so full credit for that. He’s given us many wonderful moments over the years and I believe it is possible that he could reach the heights of the Premier League one day but he’ll have to really work hard to improve his game further in order to achieve that.
This season he’s taken the captains armband, which he earned with his loyalty to the club, but that, a lot of injured strikers and a formation that doesn’t always seem to suit him has meant, in my opinion, more pressure and sadly a less successful season for Cauley so far. He needs help, hopefully when Carlton Morris returns and now our new boy Iseka is playing and scoring, Cauley will feel like all the weight isn’t just on his shoulders and he can play with a bit more freedom.
What are your predictions for the promotion/relegation in the Championship this season?
1st – Fulham
2nd – West Brom
Playoffs – Stoke City
22nd – Hull City
23rd – Peterborough Utd
24th – Derby County
Finally, how do you see the game panning out?
Many are understandably going for a comfortable Fulham win, with some suggesting it could be embarrassing if we concede early and the flood gates open. I personally think, considering the fact we have a new manager in, we could see a more determined performance from Barnsley than expected. I still believe Fulham will have too much quality for us on the day so I’m going with a valiant effort that will just fall short of getting us a result.
FULHAM 2-1 BARNSLEY
LEAGUE POSITION: 23RD
LEAGUE FORM: LWLLL
AWAY FORM: LLLLD
LAST RESULT: BARNSLEY 0-2 HULL CITY
GOALS SCORED: 12 (23RD)
GOALS CONCEDED: 25 (7TH)
AVERAGE POSSESSION: 49% (11TH)
DISCIPLINE: 36 YELLOWS 0 REDS (3RD)
TOP SCORER: AARON LEYA IESKA, CAULEY WOODROW (3)
MOST ASSISTS: CALLUM BRITTAIN (2)