For two teams on the same amount of points, it would be fair to say that there can be found fewer larger contrasts in optimism for this season than between Fulham and Hull City.
Whilst a point against Cardiff was not quite what anyone was after, it was a good display when you factor in the start that the opposition have had and the absence of numerous key players for the Whites.
Hull, on the other hand, missing Abel Hernandez and thumped 5-0 by a Derby County side who haven’t had the brightest start to the season themselves, are feeling the strain.
However, to those of us who watched the slugfest between the Rams and the Tigers on Friday, it’s clear that Hull City are still not a side to be taken lightly. They more than held their own for the first half-hour, and should have been level only for Seb Larsson to inexplicably chip his penalty over the crossbar.
Whilst the midfield of Larsson, Henrikson and Toral was weak and too easily scythed through on Friday, you would expect the return of Irish international David Meyler to add some real steel and heart to the centre of the park tonight, something which was sorely lacking on Friday.
That wasn’t the only problem, but it was the core of it. Larsson may well retain his place, as much for his set piece ability as for his work in the open, but Henrikson and Toral will almost certainly be replaced after lacklustre displays. Jackson Irvine, who shone for Burton Albion last season, will almost certainly line up in the middle instead.
Even missing Hernandez, Nouha Dicko, Kamil Grosicki and Adama Diomande are all players who can put the ball in the back of the net, and on their day are matchwinners.
The Tigers will be looking for a swift return to passable performance, and a gritty point at the Cottage would be seen as a success tonight. Fulham, on the other hand, can scarce afford to pass up three more, especially at home against a team lacking confidence and form.
Last 5 Championship Results:
- W: Derby County 5-0 Hull City
- W: Hull City 4-0 Bolton Wanderers
- W: Queens Park Rangers 2-1 Hull City
- W: Hull City 2-3 Wolverhampton Wanderers
- W: Hull City 4-1 Burton Albion
Fulhamish’s Starting Line-Up:
With Tom Cairney and Sheyi Ojo still out, and Rui Fonte still a doubt in our mind, we think that Kebano is the only member of the squad missing from Saturday that is likely to start tonight’s game.
As such, he comes back in, but it was a tough choice between him and Yohan Mollo – who showed glimpses of what he could do on Saturday – and we wouldn’t be at all sad to see the Frenchman start again.
Jordan Graham should get a runout tonight at some point, but it’s hard to see Slavisa dropping Sessegnon after a good display and a goal on Saturday, and so he may have to be patient and display his obvious ability in a cameo role from the bench, perhaps in tandem with Aboubakar Kamara, who we’re hoping can build on a positive appearance on Saturday.
The only big change is the switching of Ibrahima Cisse for Oliver Norwood. Whilst not small, Hull do not have the behemoth players that Cardiff can boast, and Norwood’s creative spark, in tandem with a reignited Stefan Johansen could be the twin engines that drive Fulham’s creative force in the absence of Tom Cairney.
Stefan Johansen v David Meyler
I like this battle for numerous reasons, but I really do think that the heart of the midfield is where this game is going to be won or lost. Hull were a mess on Friday night, with Henrikson trying but failing to provide a platform, and Jon Toral being all but anonymous for 90 minutes.
I think we’ll see introductions for David Meyler and Jackson Irvine respectively in those positions, and a McDonald-Norwood-Johansen v Larsson-Meyler-Irvine battle is one which seems more evenly matched.
David Meyler came in for the Republic of Ireland against Serbia last week, and although the Republic lost the game, Meyler replacing the ineffective and tiring Glenn Whelan from the game prior was a change which worked.
Meyler’s tenacity, versatility and heart have won him many admirers at both the KC Stadium and in his native Ireland, and his hardworking tendencies will provide a challenge to Stef’s dominance in the middle which is usually so prevalent at Craven Cottage.
That said, the Norwegian captain is by far a technically superior player to his Irish counterpart, and if his finesse and movement are enough to slice through the Hull midfield, Fulham should dominate.
We’re positive about tonight, and although we don’t think it’s going to be easy by any stretch of the imagination, we’re plumping for a 3-1 Fulham win, but with a few nervy patches.
Don’t forget to listen to Monday’s episode of Fulhamish for all the reaction to this game and Saturday’s trip to Burton Albion, and make sure that you’re subscribed on one of the following platforms.