Fulham face another tricky away trip tomorrow afternoon, heading to the Hawthorns to take on relegation rivals West Bromwich Albion in what is already a make-or-break game at the foot of the Premier League.
The Baggies will be looking for an immediate response after their humbling at the hands of Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City on Tuesday night. The visitors found it all too easy, a combination of their own silky skills, and some abject Albion defending leading to a five-star stroll. Prior to that humiliation, however, West Brom seemed to be on something of an upturn under Sam Allardyce. After crashing out of the FA Cup on penalties at League One Blackpool, Allardyce’s men travelled to local rivals Wolverhampton Wanderers and took all three points – coming back from 2-1 down to win 3-2 at Molineux. They were unlucky to lose at Allardyce’s former club West Ham and pinched a point in his first match as manager at Anfield.
Albion will want to rediscover home comforts having lost all four games at the Hawthorns since the ex-England manager replaced Slaven Bilic in December. Allardyce hasn’t been able to carry them out of the relegation zone having recorded just one win in charge and nor has he been able to stop his new charges from conceding goals at an alarming rate. New signings are planned, although it is unlikely that the imminent arrival of Galatasaray striker Mbaye Diagne will come in time for him to face Fulham. Instead, Allardyce will make personnel changes to the team thrashed by Manchester City – with Matt Phillips and Conor Gallagher likely to come back in. Lively winger Grady Dianagana is an injury doubt and Albion’s most potent threat is likely to be the mercurial Matheus Pereira, a star in the Championship, who has scored five goals and made three more this term.
Fulham are sorely in need of victories – Wednesday night’s stalemate at Brighton was their sixth draw in eight games – and goals, having scored just four in their last nine league matches. The most likely solution to that problem, in the absence of a new striker, is probably Aleskandar Mitrovic. The Serbian has just three to his name this season and has had been short of confidence having missed the pivotal penalty in his country’s failure to qualify for the European Championships and been overlooked as Scott Parker changed his system. But Mitrovic scored 26 goals in the Championship last year, scored eleven in a desperately poor Fulham side that was relegated in 2019, and showed encouraging sharpness as a substitute at Brighton. If restored to lead the line tomorrow, Mitrovic would bring a presence that has been missing from Fulham’s attack potentially alongside a livewire in Ademola Lookman, who already has three goals and three assists, and Bobby Decordova-Reid, who opened the scorer in the reverse fixture at Craven Cottage.
Parker will be able to call upon the services of Antonee Robinson, the American international who has been so impressive since arriving from Wigan in the summer, after his suspension for that sending off against Chelsea. Fulham looked badly unbalanced when the head coach opted to play Decordova-Reid at left wing-back on the south coast and Robinson’s desire to drive forward with pace and power could provide a new attacking option. Their only persisting injury worries are around Tom Cairney, who has just began a new course of treatment to overcome his knee problem, and Terence Kongolo, whose latest setback is a thigh strain.
Fulham can’t afford to be cut adrift at the bottom. For that reason, Parker needs to be more adventurous at the Hawthorns and back the quality in his side to cause West Brom problems. He should be bold and recall Mitrovic because a win would make such a difference to our survival bid.
MY FULHAM XI (5-3-2): Areola; Tete, Andersen, Tosin, Aina, Robinson; Anguissa, Reed, Loftus-Cheek; Lookman, Mitrovic
@ffcSeb’s score prediction– West Bromwich Albion 0-2 Fulham FC