Fulham head down to the South Coast this Saturday for what is surely the most difficult test of the season so far against a red-hot Brighton and Hove Albion.
The match against the Seagulls comes at an interesting time for us – as it feels like the season is at a crossroads. With only one defeat in six, all against good quality opposition, Fulham fans are generally looking upwards rather than downwards for the first time in, what feels like, an eternity. A win (or maybe even a spirited draw) against this in-form Brighton side would surely be a signal of intent that this team means business for the rest of the season. A defeat at this stage of the season against such a strong side wouldn’t be catastrophic by any stretch of the imagination, but you’d just be wary that it could undo some of the good progress that has been made in building up the team’s confidence.
Slaviša has said in his pre-match press conference that he was “unhappy with the performance” against Sheffield Wednesday, but he’ll have surely been encouraged by Fulham’s resilience that saw Scott Malone rescue a point in the 91st minute. Fulham could have done with that sort of resilience in last season’s 5-0 defeat at the AMEX – a defensive horror show that unfortunately had become habitual by that point.
Brighton have kicked on from last season’s 3rd place finish and are 11 games unbeaten in the league since a 2-0 home defeat to Brentford at the beginning of September, their only home reverse in 2016 since New Year’s Day. A very impressive 5-0 home win over Norwich aside, Chris Houghton’s side have hardly been prolific during this unbeaten run. However when you keep 8 clean sheets, you don’t really need to be. Only Newcastle come close to Brighton’s astonishing defensive record that has seen them only concede 10 times in the 17 league games to date.
At the heart of that defence is 25 year old Lewis Dunk, who must feel that he made a sensible decision last summer by staying at the AMEX despite Fulham’s serious interest. Up top is Glenn Murray, who seems to be making amends for his controversial move from Brighton to bitter rivals Palace in 2011 with 10 goals this season. He is generally supported by Sam Baldock in a 4-4-2 formation, with Anthony Knockaert (6 goals) and Jiri Skalak (5 assists) a constant danger on the wings.
Interestingly there has been some big changes in Brighton’s backroom staff this week. Just over a month after being sacked by Cardiff, former Fulham man Paul Trollope has been appointed as assistant to manager Chris Hughton. He replaces Colin Calderwood, who left the Seagulls to join Championship rivals Aston Villa earlier this week.
Their last 5 results:
- D: Brighton & Hove Albion 1-1 Aston Villa
- W: Bristol City 0-2 Brighton & Hove Albion
- W: Brighton & Hove Albion 5-0 Norwich City
- W: Wigan Athletic 0-1 Brighton & Hove Albion
- W: Brighton & Hove Albion 1-0 Wolverhampton Wanderers
Fulhamish’s Starting Line-Up:
Scott Parker is the only absentee through suspension so Slaviša may well opt to use the same eleven for the fourth game in a row. However, it might be nice to see him opt for the directness of Ayite who impressed when he came on for Piazon against Sheffield Wednesday in the second half.
It maybe shows how far Fulham have fallen in recent years when a trip to Brighton fills us with dread, but the Seagulls are a very strong Championship team who look bound for glory after many consecutive years of going close. We think Fulham will put up a good fight, and there won’t be much in it, but unfortunately we reckon Brighton’s quality and home advantage will tell and the Whites will succumb to a 2-1 defeat.
Don’t forget to listen to Monday’s episode of Fulhamish for all the reaction to this weekend’s game. Subscribe to the podcast on any of the following platforms (others are available):