17th November 2012
Fulham played out their third entertaining draw on the bounce as they brought one point from the Emirates, but the time has come for a victory that would see the Cottagers close the gap behind European places. Sunderland slipped further down the league standings as they were beaten by Everton and the alarm bells will be on if the Black Cats failed to get something from Craven Cottage.
While successfully avoiding the relegation tussle over the last few weeks, Fulham were never a real joy to watch, even if they would occasionally beat one of the title contenders at their Craven Cottage. However, that seems to have changed this term, as Martin Jol’s side have become one of the most entertaining teams in the elite division. Star signing Dimitar Berbatov obviously has got to take credit for the fact Fulham have scored 24 goals in 11 games, having bagged five and created three more, but exciting winger Alex Kacaniklic has also contributed a great deal to the attacking department. With Damien Duff and Bryan Ruiz also on top of their game, the Cottagers have largely impressed in the opening exchanges and they fully deserve a place in the top half of the standings. While failing to beat top 4 contenders Manchester City and Everton, Fulham eased off to wins against Norwich, West Brom and Aston Villa, meaning they have every right to hope for a good result against struggling Sunderland. Chris Baird misses out through suspension, while Kieran Richardson and Simon Davies are out injured.
Martin O’Neill did well to save Sunderland from the drop last season, but it remains to be seen if he can do it all over again this term. Everybody at the club hoped the Black Cats would be able to challenge for a top 10 place after adding Steven Fletcher and Adam Johnson to the squad in the summer, but the two players have failed to significantly improve the quality of the squad. The Scottish forward may have netted five times in his first five games for the club, but have now failed to score in last eight matches for club and country, while Adam Johnson has had even more difficult start to his career at the Stadium of Light. Given that star midfielder Stephane Sessegnon cannot seem to rediscover the form that served him so well this season, Sunderland don’t look like they can end the barren run in the near future. On top of that, Martin O’Neill faces a real selection headache ahead of the trip to Craven Cottage, with Lee Cattermole, Steven Fletcher, Phil Bardsley and Keiren Westwood all injury doubts.
Fulham are scoring goals for fun at the moment and their good run of results at Craven Cottage looks set to continue against out-of-form Sunderland. The Black Cats are completely out of confidence and have no idea how they are going to end the dismal run, making home win the logical choice here.
Verdict: Home win Fulham (1)
Best Odds: 3/4
Bookmaker: Paddy Power