Black and White is the order of the day as Fulham travel up to the North East to face the mighty Newcastle United, who sit three points clear at the top of the league, and seemingly destined for a return to the Premier League.
Newcastle have rarely been outside the top two since the Championship really got going, and despite an opening day defeat to the Whites, the Magpies have only lost six times since August.
That said, in a more exaggerated sense of our own form, their away form has been far superior to their home run, with 4 of their 6 losses since the last meeting coming at St. James’ Park, which should give the Whites at least some hope going into this meeting, despite the fact that the Toon last lost a game on the 2nd January.
Tuesday’s spirited performance against Leeds proved that the Whites were no pushovers, and that the desire to reach the playoffs is alive and well within the Fulham camp – Slavisa will no doubt have Fulham burning off the ecstasy of Tom Cairney’s 95th minute equaliser to gear them up for another huge game.
Have no doubt though, that these are both sides in form and attempting to turn the corner into the final straight in the highest possible gear. Fulham are unbeaten in six, whilst Newcastle’s record stands at eleven; and both sides are full of quality throughout.
The returning Dwight Gayle is one thing to consider, but in his absence Daryl Murphy has stepped up to the plate admirably, with the Irishman notching four goals in seven appearances since the turn of the year.
With Momo Diame, Ayoze Perez, Christian Atsu, Matt Ritchie and a revitalised Yoan Gouffran in the squad as well, there are plenty of sources from which the goals can come, and Jamal Lascelles and Ciaran Clark remain huge threats from the deadly accuracy of Jonjo Shelvey’s set pieces.
The reason that Newcastle are top of the league is because they’re the best team in the league, with strength in depth that other teams can only dream of. There’s no doubt that Fulham are a quality side too, however, and expect Jokanovic to try and dominate possession at St. James’ Park, which the Geordie faithful will not be used to seeing.
If that can get in their heads, and Fulham can nab an early lead, it could open up in a way that suits Fulham on the break, and a result is by all means possible. Off the back of Cairney’s midweek heroics, anything is possible.
Their last 5 league results:
- D: Reading 0-0 Newcastle United
- W: Huddersfield Town 1-3 Newcastle United
- W: Brighton 1-2 Newcastle United
- D: Newcastle United 2-2 Bristol City
- W: Newcastle United 2-0 Aston Villa
Fulhamish’s Starting Line-Up:
Martin retains his spot up front for us, as we think his presence is so crucial – especially given that the man up top is going to be up against the pairing of Lascelles and Clark, and Fulham will need to make the ball stick. Sessegnon comes in after his wonderful cameo on Tuesday night, as well as Malone’s contrasting nightmare; although a test against the experience and guile of Matt Ritchie will be a tough one for the youngster. Apart from that, everyone keeps their spot.
Jonjo Shelvey v Tom Cairney
Newcastle fans will tell you that Shelvey is the best player in the league. Fulham fans will tell you it’s Cairney. There’s certainly credentials for both, but as Cairney continues his upward trajectory, he’s currently the player with the most assists in 2017 out of the top four English leagues. There’s no denying that on his day, however, Shelvey is the complete package as well, able to craft a defence-splitting pass seemingly from nowhere. The winner of the playmaker’s duel will be crucial to the attacking fulcrum of their side, meaning this is the clash that everyone will be keeping an eye on.
After other team’s have bossed possession against Newcastle in the last few weeks, we’re expecting Fulham to control the game in a way that the Magpies won’t necessarily be comfortable with, and it might ruffle more than a few feathers at St. James’ Park. We’re going for a 1-1 draw.
Don’t forget to listen to Monday’s episode of Fulhamish for all the reaction to this game and Saturday’s trip up to Newcastle. Subscribe to the podcast on any of the following platforms (others are available):