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From the opposition stand – Blackpool (a)

The international break is finally over and Fulham’s return to Championship action comes courtesy of one of the most eagerly anticipated away trips of the season. The Whites are heading to the seaside to take on newly-promoted Blackpool tomorrow afternoon. Ahead of the Bloomfield Road clash, I got the lowdown on our opponents from Tangerines fan, Danny Ward (@DannyWardBFC).

What are your expectations of Blackpool this season?

We’re definitely going to be in a relegation fight come the climax of the season, but I reckon we have the squad and manager to survive and anywhere around eighteenth or nineteenth would be a great result for us.

What have you made of Blackpool’s start to the season?

Average but promising at the same time. We came from two down again Bournemouth and snatched a late point against Bristol City so that shows that there’s some real fight within the squad. There is definitely a lot of room for improvement, though, and I believe we’ve done that by snapping up Jordan Gabriel and Dujon Sterling towards the end of the transfer window.

What are your thoughts on Blackpool manager Neil Critchley?

I honestly believe Critchley is one of the best managers in the league based on his ability to get the best out of his entire squad, including incorporating younger players as well. His qualifications speak for themselves: he was formerly Liverpool’s under 23s manager, who has a record of bringing through world class talent. He won the play-offs with Blackpool last season and he’s certainly the right man to taking this squad forward – I love the man!

Who is Blackpool’s player to watch?

Shayne Lavery is on very good form at the moment – not just for Blackpool but also for the Northern Ireland national team. He’s extremely quick and I back him to beat anyone on the ball so watch out for him!

What are your thoughts on Fulham and Marco Silva?

Fulham are too good for this division and I’m expecting you to go back up comfortably, I’m very scared of Aleksandar Mitrovic: he’s an unbelievable striker and unplayable on his day. You’ve also got a top top manager in Marco Silva, who just won the manager of the month award and you have an unbelievable squad.

How do you think the game will go on Saturday and what is your score prediction?

We will have to be extremely lucky to get anything out of the game and I want to believe we can do it. It would be true Blackpool style to get our first win of the season against a team as good as Fulham! My heart says it will be a 2-0 win for Blackpool, however my head is leading me to a 3-1 defeat.

Seb’s preferred Fulham starting XI (if everyone is passed fit); Gazzaniga, Tete, Ream, Tosin, Bryan, Seri, Decordova-Reid, Carvalho, Kebano, Mitrovic, Cavaleiro.

@FFCSeb’s Score prediction– Blackpool 0-2 Fulham

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Danny for helping me out with this opposition preview piece. See you all up in sunny Blackpool tomorrow!

From The Opposition Stand – Hull City (h)

Ahead of this afternoon’s return to Craven Cottage, I got the lowdown on our visitors from Hull City supporters’ website Tigerlink, including their thoughts on the new Fulham head coach Marco Silva, whose first spell in English football came when he took charge of this afternoon’s opponents.

What are your expectations of Hull this season?

Winning the League One title has given Hull City momentum, but a solid mid table finish would be more than acceptable with survival the clear priority. 

Despite promotion, the Club’s ambitions are severely limited by our owners the Allams who run the Club almost on League One wage levels, won’t spend money and have alienated many diehards over recent years with bizarre anti-fan policies. Large numbers of Hull City supporters won’t attend games until the Allams sell up and leave. As a result our membership and attendances are very poor, we desperately need change at the top to unite the fanbase and fill our stadium again.

What have you made of Hull’s opening to the season?

A fine 4-1 away victory at Preston on the opening day was followed a week later by a down to earth 3-0 home defeat to QPR. We then lost narrowly 1-0 at home to struggling Derby County last Wednesday but failed to impress and so far we appear to be struggling with the step up in class. 

What are your thoughts on Hull manager Grant McCann

Manager Grant McCann won over many Tigers’ fans by winning League One last season but he is still unproven at Championship level (he took us down from the Championship to League One the previous year and presided over one of the worst losing runs in our history) so it’s a very important year for him and some fans still need to be convinced he is up to management in the Championship 

Who is Hull’s player to look out for?

Key players George Honeyman and Mallik Wilks are likely absentees on Saturday due to injury. We are missing them badly.

Tom Huddlestone played for us in our Premier League days, he has re-signed and debuted this week, he may feature at Fulham. But look out for midfielder Greg Docherty who has a touch of class and Keane Lewis-Potter a lively young attacker with a bright future.

What is your opinion on the Fulham team and ex Hull manager Marco Silva?

Marco Silva was Hull Manager in the early part of 2017 and narrowly failed to keep us in the Premier League. He had notable wins against Liverpool and Manchester United during that time.

His stock has plummeted since so he will be very keen to be successful again and it would be no surprise if the Cottagers bounced straight back to the Premier League at the first time of asking. 

We reckon Fulham will make the play offs at the very least 

How do you expect the game on Saturday to go?

Fulham have managed to hold on to many of their Premier League squad. They have started very well and have players of proven quality. In contrast Hull City have an exciting young team but this is the first taste of the Championship for many of our squad and and we look low on experience and quality. 

We expect a gutsy performance and we are cautiously optimistic about our attacking threat, but we may struggle defensively

If our former players Harry Wilson and Tom Cairney are missing from Fulham’s line-up it may help our chances.

And finally, what’s your score prediction?

Fulham 3-1 Hull City

MY PREFFERED FULHAM STARTING XI (4-2-3-1): Gazzaniga, Tete, Ream (C), Tosin, Bryan; Seri, Onomah; Carvalho, Kebano, Cavaleiro; Mitrovic.

@FFCSeb’s Score Prediction– Fulham FC 1-0 Hull City (I’ve only got one right so far this season!)

Many thanks to Tigerlink for taking the time to answer our queries ahead of this weekend’s meeting at Craven Cottage. Do check out their informative Twitter feed for their take on Hull City’s fortunes and other events across East Yorkshire. We’d like to wish Hull City all the best for the remainder of the season.

From the opposition stand: Millwall (a)

Fulham look to follow up their dominant display at Huddersfield tonight in a London derby against Millwall. Ahead of the trip to south east London, I’ve spoken to Millwall fan Samuel to get the lowdown on the Lions.

What are your expectations of Millwall this season?

My expectations of Millwall this season are to finish anywhere in the mid table range of eighth to twelfth. I don’t think our squad is good to enough to be amongst the elite but we are an established Championship squad and shouldn’t be worried about going down this season.

What have you made of Millwall’s start to the season?

I think there are positives to take from our first two games of the season. A draw against a strong Queens Park Rangers side wasn’t the end of the world but it was disappointing not to beat Blackburn last Saturday. Rovers didn’t offer too much throughout the game and I felt they were definitely there for the taking

What are your thoughts on Millwall manager Gary Rowett?

I believe Gary Rowett is one of the best managers in the league with a proven track record at this level. He’s shown this by getting Millwall back-to-back eighth place finishes and turning us into a very solid Championship side.

Who is Millwall’s player to watch?

Millwall’s best player is definitely Jed Wallace. He’s one of the best in the league and has proven this time and time again over the years with his countless goal contributions and how important he’s been to the team as a whole. However, I think the addition of George Saville has gone under the radar this summer. He’s probably underestimated by a lot of Championship observers and will be crucial this season.

What are your thoughts on Fulham and our meeting tonight?

I think everyone knows Fulham will be right up there in terms of the quality they have. I feel that Marco Silva has been unlucky as a manager in England. Mitrovic is the best striker in the division and players like Anguissa and Wilson, who look well above Championship quality. I feel like we will have chances to win the game but we won’t take them

Finally, can you give us a score prediction?

Millwall 1-3 Fulham with Mitrovic scoring twice and Cavaleiro once. Jed Wallace will score ours.

MY PREFERRED FULHAM XI (4-2-3-1): Gazzaniga; Tete, Bryan, Tosin, Ream; Seri, Onomah; Cavaleiro, Decordova-Reid, Carvalho; Mitrovic.

@FFCSeb’s score prediction: Millwall 1-2 Fulham

We’d like to thank Samuel for his time in previewing this match and wish Millwall the best of luck for the remainder of the season.

From the Opposition Stand – Huddersfield Town (a)

Ahead of Fulham’s first away trip of the season, I spoke to James from TerrierSpirit.com (@SpiritTerrier) to get the lowdown on our opponents on Saturday, Huddersfield Town.

What are your expectations of Huddersfield this season?

  We’ve flirted with relegation in the last two seasons and haven’t significantly strengthened so we’re likely to be at the bottom end of things again. A mid-table finish would be a very good outcome but, realistically, I think we’ll be in the bottom six but hopefully outside the relegation spots. 

What did you make of your Town’s opening game – a 1-1 draw with Derby?

We didn’t play too badly against Derby and they were a far stronger team than the media suggested. On paper a draw seems like a poor result but we worked hard, created a few chances and were just about the better side. 

What are your thoughts on Carlos Corbéran?

I like Corberán but he was overhyped when he arrived. He was billed as a cut-price Bielsa, having coached under him at Leeds previously. His system worked well up to Christmas last season but the wheels fell off in the second half and we’ve only won three games in 2021. With a bit of backing he might be able to recreate what Bielsa did at Leeds but trying to play that style of football with a bunch of free transfers and kids is asking for trouble. 

Who is the Huddersfield player to look out for?

Our form player right now is Sorba Thomas. He arrived from Boreham Wood in the January transfer window but has only really broken into the team this season. He’s a winger but will most likely play left wingback as both of our leftbacks are currently out with covid. Against Debry he had nine key passes, most of them coming from his accurate and whipped in dead balls. 

What are your thoughts on Fulham?

I don’t know loads about Fulham but Mitrovic has been a thorn in our side in the last and is really too good to be playing at this level. Similarly, bringing in Harry Wilson is a bit of a coup, even if the terms of the deal sound a bit like an accountancy fiddle.  Marco Silva was seen as the next big thing only a few seasons ago, so it’s strange to see him managing in the Championship. It’ll be interesting to see how he responds to the cut and thrust of this league, with so many games to play and physical teams that won’t let you play nice football. 

How do you expect the game on Saturday to go?

I’m hoping that this is a good time to play a relegated team as you’ll still be adjusting to this league. Having said that, we’ve key players out with covid and other injured, so are far from full strength.  Last season we struggled against defensive teams but often played better against teams. I’m expecting Fulham to come and attack us and we’ll look to be solid at the back and try and hit you on the counter. This strategy would work better if we didn’t have a tendency to misplace passes in dangerous areas. 

And, finally, can you give us a score prediction?

I doubt Town will keep a clean sheet but I think we’ll get a lift from playing in front of our fans for the first time in such a long time, so I’ll say 1-1.

MY PREFERRED FULHAM STARTING XI: Gazzaniga; Tete, Ream, Tosin, Bryan; Francois, Onomah; Wilson, Kebano, Carvalho; Mitrovic.

@ffcSeb’s Score Prediction; Huddersfield Town 0-2 Fulham FC

Up next: West Bromwich Albion (a)

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