A new season, a new manager, but a return to old ways as fans are welcomed back in their droves for this curtain raiser. The focus from a Fulham perspective will be on how the team has adapted to a new coach and his way of playing. It will also be important to make a more positive start to this season, than the club has in the previous two (Losses to Barnsley and the Arsenal).
There are no secrets surrounding the aims of Marco Silva and his side for this season. The desire to achieve automatic promotion is reciprocated among the fan base. A good start is likely key to moving towards that goal. The first question will surround the starting XI. There are doubts over the fitness of the likes of Tom Cairney and Harrison Reed, which could present opportunities to youngsters Fabio Carvalho and Tyrese Francois. Carvalho will command the most intrigue this season, and the hope will be that he can be as integral to the upcoming promotion push as another 18-year-old was in 2017/18. Francois for his part, appears to have played his way into contention after an impressive display in the final pre-season friendly against Charlton last weekend. Opportunities may be more limited for the Australian this season, as the club appear determined to bring in more midfield reinforcements before the transfer window closes. However, until those potential signings arrive, he could get at least one more game to stake his claim.
The other point of interest will be the performance of Aleksandar Mitrovic. So often the talisman of The Whites, last season was one to forget for our beloved Serb. A manager who favours a focal point in attack with the attributes of Mitro could be the new lease of life he needs, and a goal-scoring start could ignite the fire again. 26 goals in this competition just two seasons ago will undoubtedly have Championship defences concerned about his return. The hope will be that those concerns prove to be well-founded.
While it is easy to focus purely on The Cottagers at this early stage of a new era, there will be another team on the field at Craven Cottage on Sunday afternoon. Middlesbrough, led by our old friend Neil Warnock, are hoping to get themselves into the mix for at least the playoff places this season, and we are well aware of the threats a Warnock-led side will bring. As much as we look forward to a more attacking approach to The Whites’ play this season, some of the steeliness shown in the past two campaigns will not go amiss. That balance will be key over the course of the season, but if nothing else, I just can’t wait to get back into The Hammersmith End with the Fulham faithful. It’s been far too long!
WHAT THE MANAGERS HAVE SAID
MARCO SILVA: “We are ready to compete, to put on the pitch the things we have been working on so far. We will have the commitment, the attitude, the desire and the attitude to win a football match.”
NEIL WARNOCK: “We’ve got to try and have some fun this year. We’re looking to have a good go.”
SCORE PREDICTION: FULHAM 2-0 MIDDLESBROUGH
PREFERRED LINE-UP: 4-2-3-1
H2H LEAGUE RECORD (OVERALL)
- PLAYED – 64
- FULHAM WINS – 25
- DRAWS – 11
- BORO WINS – 28
- GOALS SCORED – 83
- GOALS CONCEDED – 99
H2H LEAGUE RECORD (HOME)
- PLAYED – 32
- FULHAM WINS – 17
- DRAWS – 4
- BORO WINS – 11
- GOALS SCORED – 50
- GOALS CONCEDED – 44
LAST 5 GAMES
- FULHAM 1-0 MIDDLESBROUGH
- MIDDLESBROUGH 0-0 FULHAM
- MIDDLESBROUGH 0-1 FULHAM
- FULHAM 1-1 MIDDLESBROUGH
- FULHAM 2-1 MIDDLESBROUGH (LEAGUE CUP)
BIGGEST WINS AT CRAVEN COTTAGE
- FULHAM 6-0 BORO (1951/52)
- FULHAM 0-4 BORO (1973/74)
- FULHAM 4-1 BORO (1955/56)
- FULHAM 3-0 BORO (2008/09)
- FULHAM 0-3 BORO (1926/27, 1968/69, 1985/86)
PLAYERS IN COMMON
Fernando Amorebieta, Jordan Archer, Marcus Bettinelli, Calum Chambers, Cyrus Christie, Mark Crossley, Ryan Fredericks, Jonathan Greening, James Husband, Tomas Kalas, Neeskens Kebano, Andy Lonergan, Frank Queudrue, Patrick Roberts, Mark Schwarzer, Mickael Tavares.
DID YOU KNOW?
Fulham and Middlesbrough have never met in the FA Cup.
Here’s a Boro perspective from The Martín Payero Show ahead of Sunday’s opening game at the Cottage…
What are your expectations for Boro this season?
Like every fan, you hope your team is going to be in and around the promotion spots and we’re no different really. Neil Warnock has gone on record in saying that we’re going to give it a real go this season and push for the top 6. However, realistically I don’t think we have enough quality just yet. After 13/14 players we lack real quality which is why I think we’ll fall away and finish between 7-11th.
What are your strengths and weaknesses as a squad?
If you look at the way Boro play, we’re exactly what you expect from a Neil Warnock side. Hard to break down, crosses into the box, long balls into the channels. It can be a tough watch but it’s effective. We’re a strong unit without the ball and look to play in moments
with the likes of Tavernier and Watmore creating chances.
However, when we do get the chance in front of goal, we don’t tend to take it which is why we struggle. Boro need to be clinical in front of goal if they want to be part of the promotion push this season. But at this moment in time we don’t have enough.
If you could have one Fulham player at Boro, who would you sign and why?
Can we have Kebano back? He was excellent for us last season in his loan spell.
How do you see the game panning out?
I think it’s going to be a really tough game for both sides. I think for Boro this is a perfect time to play Fulham. New manager with a newly relegated side, it takes time to adjust.
I think it’ll be a tight affair with Fulham having the majority of the ball but both teams will get chances. But I think Fulham will edge it.
FULHAM 1-0 MIDDLESBROUGH