Select Page
Matt Smith heads in Fulham’s winner on their last visit to Bloomfield Road in 2015

One of the most eagerly anticipates away trips of the season offers an intriguing resumption to Fulham’s Championship campaign after the international break. Blackpool, with a bit of a sunshine, a play on the pleasure beach and stroll along the promenade, might be a dream destination for the travelling fans but the newly-minted Championship manager of the month for August won’t want any slacking off from his players. The Whites might have plundered thirteen points from a possible fifteen in the first month of the season but many a promotion push has floundered against unfancied sides, so a sense of focus is important as Denis Odoi insisted earlier this week.

The visit to Bloomfield Road may also serve as a barometer of Fulham’s squad depth, given the concerns about a number of players coming back from international duty. Silva still has to plan without the likes of Tom Cairney, Terence Kongolo and Kenny Tete – all of whom are likely to remain absent through serious injuries for some time – but there remain doubts over several other players who could reasonably be considered first-team players. Aleksandar Mitrovic reported back from his Serbian goalscoring exploits with a black eye, a bruised cheek and a knee complaint. Harry Wilson will need to be assessed after being taken off during Wales’ draw with Estonia with a head injury and Fulham will want to err on the side of caution where concussion could be concerned. Silva said that he will wait until after training today to decide what part Tim Ream and Antonee Robinson can play following their own participation in the USA’s World Cup qualifying campaign.

That potential injury list might have appeared daunting earlier in the summer, but thanks to a strong transfer window, Silva can call on capable deputies in almost every position. Robinson played just 45 minutes for the Americans on Thursday, scoring the goal that sparked a much-needed second half fightback, but Joe Bryan is more than capable as a Championship left back. Ream didn’t feature at all and should step back into the Fulham defence, although Alfie Mawson has shown already this season that he is an able alternative at centre back. Neeskens Kebano has produced some of the most consistent performances of his Fulham career under Silva and will be choming at the bit for another opportunity should Wilson be ruled out, whilst there’s the tantalising prospect of a first sighting of Rodrigo Muniz in a Fulham shirt if Mitrovic is unavailable.

Silva spoke highly of Nathaniel Chalobah, whom he managed at Watford, and Domingos Quina during yesterday’s press conference – and the deal to bring the England international in on a free transfer right at the end of transfer deadline day looks like one of the signings of the summer. He will stiffen up Fulham’s midfield after the departure of Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa for Napoli, but it may be a bit soon to break up the surprisingly successful partnership of Josh Onomah and Jean Michael Seri in central midfield. Whatever personnel the Portuguese head coach plumps for, it will be attitude that will deliver a win in balmy Blackpool tomorrow afternoon.

Whilst the Tangerines are still searching for their first league win after winning promotion back to the Championship, Fulham shouldn’t underestimate Neil Critchley’s side. They were cruelly condemned to a late defeat at Millwall on their last outing and have already surprised Scott Parker this season, storming back from 2-0 down to snatch a point at Bournemouth with former Fulham full back James Husband scoring the goal that began an unlikely comeback. The hosts could have at least three debutants in their starting line-up with new signings Dujon Sterling, Ryan Wintle and Owen Dale pushing for inclusion. The returning Jordan Gabriel, so impressive on loan from Nottingham Forest last season, may feature at right back with Husband confident of beating a calf problem to play against his former side.

It will be worth watching out for Shayne Lavery, who scored 30 goals for Linfield last season, and has been in outstanding form for Northern Ireland of late. The ex-Everton forward has already scored twice for Blackpool so far this season – and will pose a serious threat to Fulham’s defence. The Whites will definitely need to earn the right to play their flowing football against a fiesty and well-drilled outfit, who will see this weekend as an opportunity to spring a real surprise against the pacesetters and claim a significant scalp to kickstart their own season.

MY FULHAM XI (4-2-3-1): Rodak; Odoi, Robinson, Adarabioyo, Ream; Seri, Onomah; Kebano, Decordova-Reid, Carvalho, Mitrovic. Subs: Gazzaniga, Bryan, Mawson, Chalobah, Cavaleiro, Quina, Muniz.