With the disappointment of Saturday’s squandering of a winning position not quite out of our system, Fulham head to Wycombe Wanderers tonight to begin their League Cup campaign for the second time in the last three years. Slavisa Jokanovic used the competition to blood a number of the academy’s leading lights last year – indeed, it will be a year ago tomorrow that young Ryan Sessegnon took his first steps in senior football at Leyton Orient – and all the signs are that it will be a much changed side that takes to the field at Adams Park this evening.
Just how youthful a team Jokanovic puts out remains to be seen. Marek Rodak might get a Fulham debut in goal, but it could be worth offering David Button another opportunity given Marcus Bettinelli’s prolonged absence and how well the former Brentford goalkeeper stepped up to the task against Norwich at the weekend. If the Serbian is content to push Sessegnon further forward following his tough examination at the hands of Yanic Wildschut on Saturday, then Jerome Opoku might continue his encouraging development during pre-season or we may get another fleeting sighting of Sean Kavanagh.
Marcelo Djalo could be paired with the fit-again Michael Madl at the heart of a revamped defence, with European Under 19 Championship winner Tayo Edun in front of the back four. Edun has been versatile in his previous performances in the first team, but after signing his new contract in the summer hinted that he would like to make a midfield spot his own. The promising youngster could be joined in the middle of the park by either Ibrahima Cisse or Oliver Norwood, but not by American starlet Luca de la Torre, who has picked up an untimely injury. Matt O’Riley, who was given plenty of opportunities during Fulham’s pre-season programme, might make the matchday squad.
The interesting conundrum will come when Jokanovic considers who to opt for in the forward positions. Aboubakar Kamara’s cameo on Saturday suggested that he lacks neither for pace nor confidence and you would guess that the barrel-chested Frenchman would benefit from more minutes as he acclimatises to the English game. Cauley Woodrow will be keen to make an impression – and if he is overlooked this evening it may well be that his immediate future is out on loan rather than with Jokanovic’s first team squad. Lucas Piazon would be a natural fit to the wide left role should Sessegnon be rested ahead of the Royals’ clash at the weekend.
Supporter-owned Wycombe began their season with a 2-2 draw at home to newly-promoted Lincoln City on Saturday. Gareth Ainsworth, now one of the longest-serving managers in the Football League, is considering making some changes to the weekend line-up, which featured summer signings Adam El Abd and Nathan Tyson. There is a feelgood factor around Adams Park after the club’s highest opening-day attendance in eight years and the presence of former AFC Wimbledon unit Adebayo Akinfenwa will be sure to test out any jitters in the Fulham back line. Wanderers have real pedigree in this competition having knocked out Fulham on their way to the semi-finals in 2006 – and Jokanovic will be desperate to avoid a repeat.
MY FULHAM XI (4-3-3): Button; Odoi, Opoku, Madl, Djalo; Edun, Cisse, Norwood; R. Sessegnon, Piazon, Kamara. Subs: Rodak, Ream, Kavanagh, O’Riley, Ayite, Aluko, Woodrow.