Following Friday’s dramatic 10-man win over the Canaries of Norwich City, Fulham turn their attention to a home fixture against Aston Villa. Whilst Friday’s victory was a precious one, wins for Wednesday and Reading, as well as a point for Leeds against Newcastle means that the pressure for wins remains firmly on the Whites.
Villa had been enjoying a little bit of a resurgence of late, before a home defeat against Reading on Saturday put a little bit of the brakes on that, but good wins over QPR, Norwich City and Sheffield Wednesday over the past few weeks are indicators of the ability in the claret and blue camp.
Behind our own trio of McDonald, Johansen and Cairney; Villa’s midfield triumvirate of Conor Hourihane, Mile Jedinak and Henri Lansbury ranks as perhaps the best in the league, and whilst it might have taken them a little while to settle into life in Birmingham, there can be no doubt that they are a formidable opposition when they do click.
Add to that the pace and power of Jonathan Kodija, and an old nemesis in former Brentford man Scott Hogan; as well as the guile and trickery of Leandro Bacuna and Albert Adomah, and there’s a reason why people look on with envy at the depth of Villa’s squad.
That said, their backline has looked shaky throughout the season, with James Chester and Nathan Baker not quite living up to the expectations that they would be a tough nut to crack in the Championship. Alan Hutton has been a faithful servant to the club, but you would imagine that the searing pace and trickery of Fulham’s wide men would be able to really get at a man who is undoubtedly in the twilight years of his career.
Villa remain dangerous from set plays and the Whites will need to be wary of the threat of Kodija, Hogan and Adomah on the counter, but should go into the game confident of taking the points in front of the Sky cameras and what should be an expectant, vocal, packed out Cottage.
Their last 5 league results:
- L: Aston Villa 1-3 Reading
- D: Burton Albion 1-1 Aston Villa
- W: Aston Villa 1-0 QPR
- W: Aston Villa 2-0 Norwich City
- W: Wigan Athletic 0-2 Aston Villa
Fulhamish’s Starting Line-Up:
After Chris Martin’s questionable red card, the big question remains whether Slav chooses to give Cyriac a shot up top or to lead the line with either Aluko, Kebano, Ayite or Piazon. Our bet is that it’s the little Brazilian who will get the nod, after his lovely assist for the final goal on Friday, with the Canary-conquering trio of Ayite, Cairney and Aluko behind him. Other than that, who could you drop from Friday’s masterclass?
Tomas Kalas v Jonathan Kodija
Realistically, I wanted to talk about Conor Hourihane here, but Kodija’s record speaks for itself. Behind his 19 goals, Villa’s next top scorers for the year have three apiece, showing just how critical he has been to the Villans.
Kalas, on the other hand, has had his ups and downs in recent weeks. Silly, rash tackles against Blackburn and Derby County have shown that the on-loan Chelsea man is not infallible, but his imperious performance against Norwich City on Friday made it clear that on form, the Czech centre-back is a top player in this division.
Kodija’s pace and power caused Fulham problems in the reverse fixture, but if Kalas can keep the Ivorian quiet, Fulham are in with a big shout of victory.
Villa’s away record isn’t great, but the amount of quality in their squad is evident and they’ve beaten enough good teams in this division to show that you can never write them off. Bruce will be expecting his men to bounce back after a disappointing home defeat to Reading, but we’re hopeful that the Whites will have just enough in attack to bring home a narrow win. We go 3-2 Fulham.
Don’t forget to listen to Tuesday’s episode of Fulhamish for all the reaction to this game and Good Friday’s victory over Norwich City. Subscribe to the podcast on any of the following platforms (others are available):