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The optimism of August when an enterprising Fulham outfit swept aside their opponents with a combination of style and attacking football has been tempered by three defeats in four games. Whilst Tuesday’s shoot-out setback at the hands of top flight Leeds in the League Cup will be an afterthought come the end of the season, the two reverses against Blackpool and Reading were disturbing in different ways. At Blackpool, Marco Silva resisted rotation after an international break and Fulham looked lethargic unable to match the intensity and desire of their hosts. The Royals, on a poor run away from home and severely depleted by injuries, were able to neuter Fulham effectively, stifle any creative and scored two fine goals. If the division has already worked out how to thrive against Silva’s set up, then that is a worrying sign.

The trip to Bristol this afternoon – just like the midweek visit to Birmingham before it – is an opportunity to put things right. Fulham haven’t hit their early season heights in recent matches, even in what turned out by a commanding win at St. Andrew’s. They haven’t had the penetration or the potency of the early weeks of the campaign and will have to do without their teenage livewire, Fabio Carvalho, who has just resumed some running after a troublesome toe injury, for a while longer. When Carvalho and Harry Wilson were both absent, Fulham looked far less threatening in the final third. Reading put two men on the Welsh winger, dramatically reducing his own impact on proceedings, and without a natural number ten to link the play, the previously electric approach play had something of a formulaic feel to it.

There are selection considerations aplenty for Silva as he ponders how to respond to a couple of underwhelming results. Marek Rodak did well against Leeds in midweek, but Paulo Gazzaniga still remains his number one. More intriguingly, Alfie Mawson looked back to something his commanding best in the League Cup and has spoken in the aftermath of that game about how happy he is to be working under Silva. Breaking up a successful centre back partnership at this stage would be radical, even if Tosin Adarabioyo didn’t cover himself in glory for either of Ovie Ejaria’s fine strikes last weekend. Cyrus Christie had a tough assignment against Dan James but didn’t look out of place and may well have played his way back into the manager’s long-term thoughts.

The biggest conundrum comes in midfield, where Fulham were distinctly out of sorts against Reading. Nathaniel Chalobah couldn’t match the levels of his outstanding debut at Birmingham, but perhaps we should be patient with a player who has barely played any football in the past six months. Harrison Reed appears to have been taken off on Tuesday as a precaution, which is a relief following his summer of injury problems, but the Whites midfield lacked incision with Jean-Michael Seri below par against the Royals. Josh Onomah nearly scored a sensational equaliser in stoppage time, but the biggest problem will be coming up with an answer for Carvalho’s continued absence.

Bobby Decordova-Reid will be eager to impress on his return to Ashton Gate and, while you can never doubt the Jamaican for desire or effort, he has looked less effective through the middle than out wide. It might well have been a different game last weekend had he taken any of the three glorious first-half chances he spurned – a lack of ruthlessness in front of goal that stood in stark contrast to the way he snaffled up opportunities in the Premier League last term. Perhaps Decordova-Reid’s versatility is counting against him in the search for consistency – it can’t be easier slotting into various positions rather than getting a regular run in the team.

Reading’s makeshift central defence handled Aleksandar Mitrovic remarkably well last Saturday. Their only mistake was to allow the Serbian striker to soar at the back post to head smartly across goal for Rodrigo Muniz’s first Fulham goal, which hinted at late salvation which never arrived. Mitrovic remains the most potent striker in the division and Silva had seemed to solve his previous isolation, but without runners from deep positions, the Fulham number nine’s effectiveness can really be reduced. Muniz showed remarkable powers of recovery to play against Leeds after hardly being able to walk in the aftermath of the Reading defeat and he will need similar resiliance after missing the decisive penalty against Leeds. The pair combined effectively after the Brazilian was introduced as a substitute last weekend – and it must spark thoughts of whether a partnership could be more than a last throw of the dice in the future.

Despite not having won in fourteen home games, Nigel Pearson’s side are beginning to show significant signs of life. A come-from-behind smash and grab raid at Queens Park Rangers featured a first goal in four games for our former forward Chris Martin as well as a late winner from Nakhi Wells, who scored the last time the Whites visited BS3. Another encouraging away win at Cardiff means that the Robins could draw level on points with the Whites should they end their Ashton Gate woes this afternoon – and after eight points from a possible twelve recently, they will head into this clash in good spirits, with Nathan Baker potentially available after an ankle problem.

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