Verdict: Both teams to score
Best Odds: 4/7
On Saturday afternoon, Mauricio Pellegrino’s struggling Saints will make the journey to Craven Cottage for their FA Cup third-round tie. With pressure ever growing on their Argentinian boss, Southampton will be looking to pick up their first win in their last nine attempts.
On paper, Fulham boss Slaviša Jokanović should be confident about causing a third-round upset on Saturday afternoon. Currently sat 10th in the Championship table, the Cottagers are still in contention for a playoff spot come the end of the season. Four points adrift of sixth-placed Leeds, the west London sides major problem this year has been their inconsistency. Embarking on a six-match winless run last November, the Cottagers have drastically improved on their form and entered the New Year in some style. Jokanović’s side are in revitalized form having only lost once in their past seven outings. For the Cottagers, their recent form has been epitomised by 17-year-old Ryan Sessegnon, the left-wing back is the clubs top scorer this season and Saturday afternoon will certainly see some of the Premier League elite watching very closely. Scoring 12 goals in their last four appearances, the Cottagers will be confident about testing out a vulnerable Southampton defense. However, although Fulham may be in fine goalscoring form, like their guests on Saturday, they too are showing some defensive vulnerabilities. Fulham have failed to keep a clean sheet in any of their last five matches, including a 1-0 defeat to bottom of the league Sunderland.
Fulham winger Floyd Ayite is set to miss the game. Ayite limped off with a suspected hamstring injury during the 4-1 victory over Ipswich on Tuesday and could face another spell on the sidelines. Highly-rated Ryan Sessegnon was substituted with three minutes to spare on Saturday and is expected to start after scoring twice in the 4-1 win over Ipswich on Tuesday.
Lucas Piazon is in line for his first start since August after a broken leg. David Button is set for a run-out in goal while boss Slavisa Jokanovic will be considering further changes.
With the Saints freefalling down the Premier League table, what would have appeared to be a routine FA Cup tie could now be Mauricio Pellegrino’s final chance to save his job. Coming off the back of their 2-1 home defeat to fellow relegation strugglers Crystal Palace, the Saints were booed off by their home fans and have now gone nine matches without a win. A winless run stemming back to November, now sat in 17th position, Southampton’s goal difference is the only thing keeping them out of the drop zone. With Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk’s move to Liverpool now confirmed, Pellegrino’s side will have to act quickly to improve on their recent defensive record. Although the south coast club may have managed to come away with a 0-0 draw at Old Trafford last month, the Saints have now only managed to keep a single clean sheet in their last 17 appearances. Although Southampton have recently managed to improve their form in the final third, Southampton’s problems have been epitomised by their form away from St. Mary’s, the Saints only have one win away from home this year.
Defender Jeremy Pied has been added to Southampton’s injury list ahead of their third-round clash. French full-back Pied, who played the full 90 minutes as Saints lost to Crystal Palace on Tuesday, has suffered a leg problem, joining fellow defenders Wesley Hoedt (concussion) and Cedric Soares (hamstring) on the sidelines.
Top scorer Charlie Austin has completed a three-game ban but will continue to be absent due to a hamstring issue.
Key Factors to Consider
- Fulham have not managed to beat the Saints in their last five attempts (L2, D3) with their last meeting coming in February 2014.
- Southampton have progressed past lower league opponents in 17 of their last 18 FA Cup ties, although the last two occasions have seen the Saints taken to a replay.
- The Cottagers have lost three of their last four FA Cup games at home against opposition from a higher division (W1).
- Each of Southampton’s last six FA Cup third-round matches (excl. replays) have seen both teams score, with 25 goals scored in total (4.2 goals per game).
- Fulham will be hosting Southampton in the FA Cup for the first time since a third-round replay in January 1999, when Barry Hayles scored an 85th minute winner at Craven Cottage.
It appears to be a game that will produce chances at either end of the pitch. With eight of Fulham’s last 11 games at Craven Cottage finishing with both teams scoring, coupled with eight of Southampton’s last 10 matches producing the same, we feel that both teams will manage to find the back of the net at least once. The Saints have only managed to finish the 90 minutes with a clean sheet on one occasion in their last 17 attempts, while Fulham have also endured their own defensive issues. Backing both teams to score seems like the most logical bet here.
Verdict: Both teams to score
Best Odds: 4/7
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