While the media focus on Sunderland’s woes, it’s worth remembering that Fulham’s domestic away record remains poor. Sure, there have been some memorable nights abroad in Europe (Basel and Shakhtar will live long in the memory), but one of the big disappointments of Roy Hodgson’s reign is that his team only deliver sporadically on the road.
Fulham’s solitary win on the road this season came at Portsmouth on the opening day of the season. Forgive me being a little flippant here, but in light of what’s gone on at Fratton Park this season – and the fact that Pompey have been marooned at the bottom of the table for a while even before entering administration today – that success doesn’t seem quite as impressive. That’s not to say there haven’t been a few near misses away this season.
Fulham really should have broken their away duck at West Ham but were cruelly denied a fighting win when the ten men were pegged back by a deflected Junior Stanislas strike in injury time. The Whites also competed well at Manchester City and the draw at Eastlands was almost as good as a win given that they were 2-0 in the second half. A point at Burnley was just as pleasing given how long it’s been since Fulham won there, but there have been plenty of frustrating performances throughout the season. Chelsea away falls into the gallant, but falling just short category.
Success at the Stadium of Light on Sunday will depend on Fulham disrupting Sunderland’s midfield. Injuries have made Steve Bruce’s selection decisions very difficult indeed, but he’s not been helped by indecision. Having revamped the squad he was left by Roy Keane, Bruce doesn’t seem to know what his best team is. His best midfield, as this piece suggests, is probably Cana-Cattermole-Reid-Malbranque. How many times have they started in the league? Just the twice.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Sunderland’s fluent passing game, which can cut teams apart when it’s flowing freely, has gone to pot. Against Liverpool, in the famous beach ball game when Bruce’s side last showed the Premier League what they were really capable of, Sunderland seldom wasted possession. When they went to Everton in January, their passing was atrocious.
Which Sunderland will show up on Sunday? And will Fulham have the ability to take advantage of any slacking from the home side?