The Marco Silva promotion train is full steam ahead as this Saturday we are stopping back at Craven Cottage for our game against Stoke City. Will the Potters derail our unbeaten start to the season?
This weekend’s opponents have had an excellent start to the season. They find themselves joint top with us and West Brom, gaining ten points from four games. The Staffordshire based club are entering their fourth consecutive season in the Championship and look to have finally found some stability. Every season they have been in this division has seen them touted as one of the favourites for promotion, but they have fallen short each year.
After two managers who are well accustomed to the Championship in Gary Rowett and Nathan Jones failed, it is former Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill who has the task of taking the team back to the Premier League. Stoke now play some of the best football in the league and have a lot of players with Championship knowhow. If they can keep Tyrese Campbell and Nick Powell fit, they should be getting into the playoff’s as a minimum.
This will be our toughest challenge of the season so far. Despite the threat that Stoke pose, we come into this game as favourites. Our squad is by far the best in the league with big-money signings like Mika Seri and Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa looking like they are staying. The form of our academy players has been a joy to watch, not just Fabio Carvalho but Tyrese Francois and Jay Stansfield have left their stamp on the first team also. There is a lot to be positive about as a Fulham fan right now. After such a wretched year for everyone it is amazing to be able to watch us play attacking football and win games. Marco Silva deserves a lot of credit. It is still early on, and it might come crumbling down but it’s important to stay positive.
In terms of team selection for Saturday, I would make seven changes from the team that beat Birmingham in the Carabao Cup. There are still doubts over Harrison Reed, Fabio Carvalho, Tim Ream and Kenny Tete so I wouldn’t start any of those players against Stoke. Tom Cairney and Terence Kongolo are also out. In goal I would bring Gazzaniga back in for Rodak. As much as I prefer Rodak, it would be harsh to drop Paulo. Two changes in defence with Tosin and Robinson coming back in for Hector and Bryan. I would like to start Seri and Anguissa in the base of midfield replacing academy graduates Francois and Pajaziti. Onomah would come in for Knockaert with Decordova-Reid switching to the left flank, and finally Mitrovic in for Stansfield.
Goals from Mitro and Decordova-Reid to keep us top of the table going into the international break.
SCORE PREDICTION: Fulham 2-0 Stoke City
PREFERRED LINE-UP: 4-2-3-1
H2H LEAGUE RECORD (OVERALL)
- PLAYED – 74
- FULHAM WINS – 31
- DRAWS – 15
- STOKE WINS – 28
- GOALS SCORED – 101
- GOALS CONCEDED – 104
H2H LEAGUE RECORD (HOME)
- PLAYED – 37
- FULHAM WINS – 20
- DRAWS – 7
- STOKE WINS – 10
- GOALS SCORED – 64
- GOALS CONCEDED – 42
LAST 5 GAMES
- FULHAM 1-0 STOKE CITY
- STOKE CITY 2-0 FULHAM
- FULHAM 0-1 STOKE CITY (LEAGUE CUP)
- STOKE CITY 4-1 FULHAM
- FULHAM 1-0 STOKE CITY
BIGGEST WINS AT CRAVEN COTTAGE
- FULHAM 6-1 STOKE CITY (1958/59)
- FULHAM 5-0 STOKE CITY (1951/52)
- FULHAM 1-5 STOKE CITY (1927/28)
- FULHAM 5-1 STOKE CITY (1907/08)
PLAYERS IN COMMON
Micky Adams, Paul Bracewell, Viv Busby, Mark Crossley, John Dreyer, Ray Evans, Eidur Gudjohnsen, Stephen Kelly, Kyle Lightbourne, Paul Peschisolido, Steven Sidwell, Kostas Stafylidis, Brian Talbot, Gabriel Zakuani.
DID YOU KNOW?
Fulham have won their last 5 home games against Stoke City in the second tier.
Here’s a Potters perspective from The YYY-Files podcast ahead of Saturday’s visit of Stoke City…
What are your expectations for Stoke this season?
We’re still relatively early in the season, so I’m going to keep that in mind despite our fantastic start. A top-half finish would be a realistic improvement on our 16th, 15th and 14th finishes on our last three seasons. We’ve had a remarkable transfer window by adding to an already handsome collection of young, promising players. I’d like to see them get plenty of experience in time for a transfer window next Summer of much more financial freedom (having dispatched a lot of high earners) ready for a stronger push. I’d also like us to have fun. We didn’t have much of it, on or off the pitch last season. We’re due for Stoke fans to have a blast again, regardless of where we finish.
What are your strengths and weaknesses as a squad?
This isn’t a strength I could have given two months ago: our strength in depth. We played an excellent team in our win over Forest and made *eleven* changes to our starting XI for our League Cup tie in midweek. That XI was more than capable of giving some teams in the Championship a good game. Our options are also so varied that we modify our lineup with talents to suit our opposition. Our weakness is probably a lack of prime-aged players. We have plenty in their early twenties and in their early thirties, none of which are in peak physical, mental or technical condition. There’s room for this squad to both grow and decline quite quickly, and I’m not sure which way we’ll go.
Where do you think you need to improve on while the transfer window is open, if anywhere?
We’ve switched to a 3-5-2 formation for the foreseeable and that, of course, means our wingbacks are as important as ever. Josh Tymon and Alfie Doughty are going to have a fierce battle on the left flank this season, with Morgan Fox filling in if we require a deeper role in a four-man defence. But on the right side, we only have Tommy Smith who can play either right full or wingback. We’ve been playing Tom Ince there in the Cup and we have some youth graduates primed for inclusion if required. It would be particularly useful if we could have a first-team ready short-term option and long-term replacement for Smith at right wingback.
If you could have one Fulham player at The Potters, who would you sign and why?
Based on what you’ve just said, you’d think I’d go for Kenny Tete. I don’t know how much of a bold shout this is, but I’m going for Tom Cairney. I feel he’s of a similar mould to Nick Powell and I’ve got a soft spot for attacking midfielders like him. Being captain is a credit to his personality too, and I feel like you can never have enough options in midfield to grab those crucial goals and assists. I know there’s plenty of options that would surely see Stoke so much better-off financially, but this is a hypothetical question and I’d rather see Stoke smash a few in.
How do you see the game panning out?
This game isn’t season-defining, rather season foreshadowing. I think if we give a decent account of ourselves, I reckon we could push you and the other favourites all the way this season. We’re a dark horse for sure, but our squad is built for 46 games and I’m so excited by what we’ve produced so far (plus we’ve got Tyrese Campbell to come back too). If we fall flat on our face, we may well have got too excited too early; although your latest promotion shows anything can happen no matter how you start. I’m gonna back my side (somewhat) and say we’re going to draw. These are two teams in great form and should be a great match for each other. I’ll be watching eagerly on Saturday. Enjoy the game!
FULHAM 1-1 STOKE CITY