Another helping of Friday night football sees Fulham make the journey north to face Phillip Cocu’s Derby County side at Pride Park this evening.
Tonight’s televised game is our first visit to Derbyshire since the memorable Championship play-off semi final and it comes off the back of a disappointing defeat at home to Barnsley last weekend. If Scott Parker needs to lift his troops, he might be able to raise spirits by recalling Fulham’s comfortable 3-0 dispatching of the Rams in November. Cocu and Derby have to be disappointed with their season so far, with the club currently nine points off the play-off places in thirteenth, although the arrival of veteran Wayne Rooney, who has scored nine goals in twelve appearances against Fulham, seems to have sparked something of a revival. Derby are unbeaten in four and have scored sixteen goals in their last twelve league outings.
The Rams, with Cocu finally able to transmit his vision to a squad that contains plenty of quality, probably still have realistic promotion aspirations – especially with how crazy this division remains. As well as Rooney, County have plenty of quality within their squad. Creative midfielder Tom Lawrence has seven goals to his name already this time and former Fulham striker Chris Martin, who has formed a potent partnership with the evergreen Martyn Waghorn up front, will be eager to remind us all of his talent. The pair have plundered nineteen goals between them so far this season.
The home side will have to do without the experienced Tom Huddlestone, a regular scourge of Fulham, who has succumbed to a long-standing calf problem. American midfielder Duane Holmes, scorer of a stunning equaliser at Middlesbrough, is also missing due to a leg injury but Cocu should be able to welcome back the former Liverpool defender Andre Wisdom from a hamstring strain.
Parker’s injury concerns are familiar. Harrison Reed is likely to miss out again, whilst defenders Alfie Mawson, Terence Kongolo and Maxime Le Marchand are long-term absentees. The Whites are in dire need of both a performance and a big result at Pride Park to breathe new life into their promotion push, especially after their meek capitulation against bottom of the table Barnsley. 700 Fulham fans are making the journey up to Derby tonight as Parker aims to put the pressure back on Leeds before Saturday’s fixtures.
MY FULHAM XI (4-3-3): Rodak; Christie, Odoi, Hector, Bryan; McDonald, Cairney, Onomah; Decordova-Reid, Mitrovic, Cavaleiro
My prediction: Derby County 1-2 Fulham.