Tonight’s meeting with Burnley could spell the end. If Fulham lose, Scott Parker will have to let go of the crumbs of hope he has clung to as the Whites’ results have slowly dropped off at the most pivotal point of the season. Relegation will be confirmed. How can the Cottagers prolong their fight to remain the top flight?
Burnley are a side well known for their 4-4-2 formation, with Dyche employing a very classical British style of football which has brought the Lancashire some of their most successful years in modern times. However, despite reaching the Europa League just a few short seasons ago, the Clarets have found themselves pulled into this year’s relegation battle as they currently sit in 17th place, one spot ahead of ourselves. However, tonight they have been afforded the opportunity to end this battle and send London’s original football team into the second division.
This game will likely be a tightly contested affair, with both sides having conceded relatively few goals so far this season. In fact, on this front, Fulham has the advantage, having conceded just 45 goals in 34 Premier League games, whereas the Clarets have conceded 47. However, Dyche’s side has also scored 6 more goals than Parker’s, with 31 goals for this season, boasting Chris Wood with 11 goals as one half of their strike partnership. On the other hand, Fulham have failed to score in five of their last seven home games, as it feels that the team has given up the ghost.
Dyche heads to the Cottage with a relatively free treatment table, with only Brady and Long unavailable through injury. Unfortunately for Fulham, the Clarets will be able to welcome back star striker Wood after an injury scare. Parker also has two players, Cairney and Kongolo, who will miss the match, whilst Reed is doubtful due to an ankle injury. Ruben Loftus-Cheek returns to the fold after being ineligible for last weekend’s fixture against his parent club, Chelsea.
For Fulham, this is a must-win match with a loss confirming their relegation. Only if the Whites win all of their last four games do they have a chance at survival. Therefore, expect to see Parker’s men playing cautious football, almost to avoid a loss, but with the continuation in the use of the 4-2-3-1 formation, here is my predicted line-up:
We can expect to see Mitrovic pressuring Burnley’s back line, attempting to distract and out-muscle them, creating chances for the faster wingers either side of him. However, the utilisation of the Serbian’s heading ability and goalscoring nouse from within the box will also prove key to any successful game plan.
The midfield will be an incredibly important battleground for both teams as Burnley will attempt to stop any ball progression through it. Therefore, it is vital that the ball is brought through the middle of the pitch quickly then distributed to a quick winger or into Mitrovic, who is able to hold-up play – something very similar to how the Clarets themselves like to attack.