An awful lot has happened since Fulham were last in action in the Premier League. The Whites’ third consecutive defeat – that saw them exit the FA Cup despite bossing the quarter final at Manchester United for 72 minutes was as dramatic as anything we’ve seen this season. The positives of a classical away performance being served up so soon after two meek capitulations in London derbies were drastically outweight by the way Marco Silva’s side surrendered a hard-fought advantage so stupidly. Three red cards in a minute will have implications for the remainder of the season, the loss of control from Aleksandar Mitrovic – who had earlier ended a long scoring drought to give Fulham the lead – and the resulting open season on London’s oldest football club were all just as demoralising as the gutting realisation that the Cottagers, still without a major trophy, were only a few minutes away from an FA Cup semi-final.

Fulham played hardball with the charges that ensued and boxed clever in recent days. Silva’s request for a personal hearing means that he can man the touchline at Dean Court this afternoon, although hopefully with a little less petulance and fire than he has displayed over the course of what has otherwise been a wonderful campaign. The Whites will be without Willian, whose handball on the goalline ultimately proved pivotal at Old Trafford, and Mitrovic – who, in all likelihood will face a longer ban for his manhandling of Chris Kavanagh – and facing a relegation-threatened side who are strong at home without those key figures will be a test of whether Fulham will limp to the finishing line or recover some of the verve that characterised their rise to the top half in the first place.

Questions abound as to who will replace the two banned players, although Silva’s choices are probably straightforward. Missing Willian, who has rolled back the years since cancelling his Corinthians contract to come to Craven Cottage, is a major blow but the Fulham head coach has a surfeit of wingers in superb form. Manor Solomon didn’t start against Manchester United and the Israeli should here, Bobby Decordova-Reid scored a stunning goal in the Azteca over the international break, whilst Harry Wilson and Dan James showed signs of returning to form whilst Wales made a magnificent start to European Championship qualifying. There’s also the prospect of Neeskens Kebano, who rejoined training this week after injuring his achilles back in November, returning before the end of the season as well.

The solution should be straightforward up front as well. Nobody can replace Mitrovic – as we’ve discussed at length here over recent seasons, including this one – but I’m more of a believer in Carlos Vinicius that a good deal of our fanbase. The Brazilian will likely get a longer run in the side that he ever has since arriving at Fulham and he has demonstrated an eye for goal, with those two memorable finishes in local derbies. The header in a winning cause to win the SW6 bragging rights is the one we remember more fondly, but his consolation strike on an otherwise horrid night in Hounslow shouldn’t be dismissed either. Here is his chance to make even more of an impression.

But Silva was right to warn yesterday that Bournemouth will be a tough nut to crack. They might be marooned in the relegation zone and have collapsed since the World Cup break, but Gary O’Neill has already demonstrated that he’s no mug – the Cherries, especially Dom Solanke, were impressive in taking the lead twice at the Cottage in October and, anyone thinking they are down amongst the dead men, only needs to remind themselves of the character and quality that earned a home win over Liverpool before the international break. They also possess one of the heartwarming stories of the season in David Brooks’ ongoing return to professional football with the winger’s substitute appearance against Aston Villa his first since September 2021 as he fought so gallantly against Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

O’Neill’s ranks will be swelled by some talented players recovering from injury. Marcus Tavernier could make his return since injuring his foot whilst scoring a vital winner against Wolverhampton Wanderers in February, whilst Ukrainian centre back Illia Zabarynyi is in line for his debut having been sidelined with an ankle injury since signing from Dynamo Kyiv on transfer deadline day. Both Hamed Traore and Jefferson Lerma reported fitness issues whilst with their respective countries within the last week, but the pair will be available for selection later on – and that should make a difference to the combative nature of things in midfield.

Fulham will need to be at their best to offer a response following how things unravelled up at Old Trafford and avoid a third consecutive league reverse for the first time this term. Silva will demand more from his side, although these fixtures are notoriously tense and tight – the last three were drawn, although the spectre of Scott Parker has been happily been removed for this particular reunion with Ryan Fredericks, who played such a crucial part in Fulham’s promotion to the Premier League back in 2018 before leaving for West Ham.

MY FULHAM XI (4-2-3-1): Leno; Tete, A. Robinson, Diop, Ream; Palhinha, Reed; Decordova-Reid, Solomon, Pereira; Vinicius. Subs: Rodak, Cedric Soares, Adarabioyo, Duffy, Lukic, Cairney, Harris, Wilson, James.