Odds: Fulham 16/11, Draw 23/10, Stoke 9/4
Last season 1-0
There is a lot of pressure on Fulham manager Martin Jol going into this game as he could do with a result. Fulham have only picked up one point since the opening day victory against Sunderland and currently lie third from bottom as they welcome a side in Stoke City who are three points and three places ahead of them in the Premier League. Both sides must be targeting all three points at Craven Cottage on Saturday afternoon. Mark Hughes’ side won’t be in the best of spirits, though. After making what looked like a solid start they suffered a 1-0 home defeat last time out to Norwich, making their start look ordinary.
On the injury front, Stoke are likely to be without Matthew Etherington who is suffering from whip-lash, while Scott Parker is likely to miss the game after he hobbled off in the opening stages of Fulham’s 2-1 loss to Cardiff City last weekend, but Aaron Hughes could return to the side.
With a pretty big game for both sides, here are five players who could be under the spotlight:
See also: Two major departures at Fulham?
Martin Jol will have been glad to see Ruiz return last weekend and he had an immediate impact with a well-taken goal. A lot may fall on Ruiz to be the architect of Fulham’s attacking play. Can he be the difference between the two sides and lift a bit of pressure off of Jol’s shoulders?
Either Crouch or Kenwyne Jones seem to be getting the nod at the moment and not both of them at the same time. But Crouch may be picked after Jones’ performance against Norwich City proved fruitless. Crouch’s battle with Hangeland will be interesting to watch.
Bent has a pretty good goalscoring pedigree but he is going to have to really get at the Stoke defence early on Saturday to set the tone of the game. This is one that Fulham are going to have to start quickly, and with a bit of pace and decent finisher up front, Bent could provide the vital finish.
Pennant seems to provide Mark Hughes’ side with a good degree of impact when he has come off the bench. He does have some good pace and a decent delivery which may trouble Fulham’s back line this weekend. If Hughes starts with him, don’t be surprised if he has a big influence on the game.
Fulham’s big centre-half has come in for some criticism over the past couple of weeks, so he will want to put in a good performance this week to silence the doubters.
Last time they met
Fulham 1-0 Stoke – February 2013 Premier League
It was a magnificent volley from a very talented footballer that decided this match as Fulham took all three points courtesy of Dimitar Berbatov on the stroke of half-time. Jonathan Walters had his penalty saved from Mark Schwarzer after the interval. It meant that Stoke’s poor away form continued as both sides lay firmly in mid-table afterwards.
image: © nicksarebi