Verdict: Total goals over 2.5
Best odds: 4/7
Fulham will be taking on Blackpool on Saturday afternoon at Craven Cottage, in what will be the 28th Championship match of the season for both sides.
The aim for the 2021-22 season is as clear as it can be for Fulham – to book a place in the Premier League for next season, preferably by winning the league if possible. And it certainly is possible; it’s positively likely at this point.
The Cottagers top the table with 57 points from 27 games, five more than Blackburn Rovers in second place who have played a game more, and eight points above third-place Bournemouth. The top two spots lead straight into the English top tier, while places three through six bring promotion play-offs for the teams occupying them at the end of the season.
Fulham are a fine team under Marco Silva, and it would be a huge surprise if they allow anyone to overtake them between now and May.
The last six matches include a rare home defeat, 0-1 at the hands of Sheffield United, a 0-1 win away to Bristol Rovers in the third round of the FA Cup, a 0-7 hammering of Reading away, a 6-2 home league win over Bristol City, another home win by the same scoreline over Birmingham City, and a 2-3 win away to Stoke City.
The match at the Brittania Stadium yielded two goals in the opening two minutes, with D’Margio Wright-Phillips breaking the deadlock for the hosts and Rodrigo Munoz equalizing straight away. Muniz then turned the contest around in the 33rd, only to see his goal cancelled out by Lewis Baker in the 58th. Nonetheless, the three points were secured by Bobby Reid in the 72nd.
Left-back Antonee Robinson and midfielder Bobby Reid are away on international duty, representing the USA and Jamaica, respectively, in the World Cup qualifications. Joe Bryan is likely to fill in on the left defensive flank, while Harry Wilson – providing he recovers from illness in time – or Anthony Knockaert should replace Reid in a wide attacking role.
Striker Aleksandar Mitrovic is another one who’ll be hoping to return from illness in time. Defender Kenny Tete is injured and is likely to be replaced by Denis Odoi.
Interestingly enough, Blackpool currently sit in 14th place with 36 points, but with only eight separating them from Huddersfield Town in sixth over which they have a game in hand, and with no less than 19 matches left to play, they certainly cannot be ruled out of the race for the play-off places just yet. It’s a much wider gap between them and Peterborough, who top the relegation zone with 20 points, so Blackpool are pretty comfortable from that side.
However, the club have had other, very serious off-pitch matters to deal with recently. Forward Beryly ‘Bez’ Lubala was investigated and trialed for an alleged case of rape, and only on Wednesday was he found not guilty and cleared of the charge. Nonetheless, the club suffered a great deal of damage to their reputation, which they tried to repair to an extent with an official statement.
“Blackpool Football Club notes the Jury reached a verdict of not guilty in relation to the allegation against Beryly Lubala.
“This has been an extremely difficult time for all involved.
“The alleged offence is one that the Club had no prior knowledge of when Beryly signed for Blackpool in September 2020.
“The Club would like to make clear that it would not knowingly sign a footballer, nor employ any individual, who is subject to a Police Investigation of this gravity.
“The Club will be making no further comment at this stage.”
Back to the on-pitch matters, the Seasiders’ form has recently been patchy, with three wins and three defeats in the last six matches. and it’ll have to improve quickly if they intend to seriously compete for the play-offs. They beat Peterborough 3-1 at home, lost 3-2 away to Huddersfield, lost 1-2 at home to Middlesbrough, beat Hull City 1-0 at home and lost 2-1 away to Hartlepool, before beating Millwall 1-0 at home last week.
Shayne Lavery was the man who settled the contest in the 55th minute.
Despite being cleared of the charge, Lubala is not very likely to be able to play just yet.
Left-back Luke Garbutt will be out for a while with a knee injury, and his place should be taken by Jordan Lawrence-Gabriel.
At the moment, manager Mark Critchley doesn’t have any other selection issues, and the lineup should look pretty much the same as against Millwall.
Fulham are the clear favourites to win this match, and there should be plenty of goals to enjoy.
Verdict: Total goals over 2.5
Best odds: 4/7
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