Despite facing relegation candidates Hull City and Huddersfield Town back to back, Blues head into tomorrow’s game at Craven Cottage on a nine-match winless run in all competitions. After managing just one point since the restart of the championship, many Blues fans have started to look nervously down the table.
Blues currently lie on 49 points, six clear of 22nd place Stoke City. However, incorporating Wigan’s 12-point deduction this gap increases to eight points, with 23rd place Barnsley sitting on 41 points. Looking back at recent seasons, 49 points has been enough for safety in the past four out of five, with the only exception to this being back in the 2016/17 season when Blackburn Rovers were relegated with 51 points. With just six games remaining of the current season, Blues will be hoping to confirm their safety sooner rather than later.
Fulham on the other hand will be looking to secure a playoff place in their final remaining fixtures, with a 7-point gap to both 2nd place West Brom and 7th placed Derby County. The Cottagers are much happier playing at home than they are away, picking up 12 wins in 20 at Craven Cottage compared to 7 in 20 away. However, this home form has declined recently, after losing four out of their last ten at home. Blues will be hoping to capitalise on their recent away form, after picking up 17 points from their last 10 games.
It was Fulham who came away with all the points when Scott Parkers side visited St Andrews back in November. The only goal came courtesy of a Lee Camp error, when the then out of form keeper dropped Cyrus Christie’s cross and Mitrovic tapped in. This time around Fulham will be without the Serbian forward, after the joint league top scorer was suspended for three games for elbowing Ben White in last week’s 3-0 loss to Leeds.
Last Time Out
There is no doubt that the team’s performance in the 3-0 home loss to Huddersfield was one of the poorest of the season. The Terriers, who hadn’t picked up any points since the season restart went ahead courtesy of a Karlan Grant penalty, after a poor challenge by Blues captain Harlee Dean. Grant could’ve had a second through another spot kick in the second half if it hadn’t of been for a strong Lee Camp save. Blues failed to build upon Camps penalty save after conceding a second goal soon after. Huddersfield wrapped up all three points in the 72 minute with a goal that once again stemmed from a set piece.
Blues’ post lockdown form: DDL
Prior to playing QPR, Scott Parker’s side had lost both games since resuming their season after losing to two of their main rivals, Brentford and Leeds. Despite trailing inside a minute to a Jordan Hugill header and being without top scorer Mitrovic, Fulham took home all the points from their west London rivals. Harry Arter levelled the score after 21 minutes and Cyrus Christie scored a spectacular goal in the second half with the match finishing 2-1.
Fulham post lockdown form: LLW
Nico Gordon and Geraldo Bajrami have recovered from their respective knocks and Pep Clotet has indicated that he may look to freshen up his side if possible. This could mean a return to the starting 11 for the first time since the restart of the season for Marc Roberts and Ivan Sunjic.
Pep Clotet ohas also shed some light on the availability of Odin Bailey, Charlie Lakin and Josh Dacres-Cogley; “We are not allowed to us them – the EFL has created a rule that it is virtually impossible for clubs to use those players.
Mitrovic will serve the second of his three-match ban whereas Neeskens Kebano returns from his one match ban after picking up two yellow cards against Leeds.
Views from the Dugout
Clotet is clearly looking for a reaction out of his players tomorrow after stating that “We’ve had two or three bad games this season and the team has always bounced back, and we hope to do that at Fulham.”
Clotet also heaped praise on Fulham and claimed Mitrovic absence may make little difference:
They have a really good squad with a lot of Premier League experience and that will help them. He (Mitrovic) played very well against us in the first game, but they have plenty of other options on the pitch. They are a team that are properly set up to chase for promotion with depth and quality
Fulham manager Scott Parker sees tomorrow’s game as a “massive opportunity” but also recognised Blues as a threatening side.
They have certain qualities, so we’ll be fully aware of that. Every game is a tough one, certainly in this division, as clichéd as that sounds. We’re looking forward to the weekend, it’s a big game for us, one we’re going into wanting to win to make it two on the bounce.
Photo Courtesy: Roy Smiljanic / BCFC