The poster-boy of our Play-off push, the young Serb himself, has a huge weight of expectation riding on his shoulders come Saturday – and it’s an opportunity that could well re-ignite his career should he deliver at Wembley. Sam Crosby-Browne takes a look at the first of our key movers and shakers in the playoff final on Saturday.
With the Championship Play Off final coined ‘the richest game in football’, Mitro will be very aware of the global platform he will be on to prove his talent – here’s a look at the impact he could bring and how important he is to Fulham’s final push for Promotion.
12 goals and 1 assist from 17 appearances – Mitro’s short spell at the Cottage has been a major highlight of another fantastic season by the Thames for the Whites.
Jokanovic has given Mitrovic the opportunity to be the strong, defence-disrupting, focal point of our attack – and he has excelled within Fulham’s system. The way he holds the ball up, shields it from opposition centre halves and brings Fulham’s pacey widemen into the game is clearly what Joka desires from his hitmen – and that’s just on the ball. In the right areas, Mitro has been a towering presence and an absolute handful for his defensive counterparts.
His overall impact on Saturday’s crunch clash for Promotion will therefore be judged on how well he gets us out of jail when we’re under the cosh and how clinical he can be in front of goal.
Well, aren’t we all relishing the chance to see Mitro go up against John Terry again? The latter is still showing his defensive qualities, albeit in a division lower than his career norm, and has the leadership skills to keep Villa’s defence very organised and disciplined; but I’m dying to see what happens when you put a blood-thirsty Serbian up against him in with the pressure of a final as a backdrop.
Steve Bruce and his side would’ve completed the necessary research and deciphered how we like to get Mitro on the ball – you would think they would take great pleasure from seeing Curtis Davies shadow him at bay at Pride Park in the first leg of the Semi, plus the fact that the Villa defence kept him relatively quiet in the 2-0 win at home – but, on the flip side, Mitro was relentless in the reverse leg and definitely used a bit more of the space available to take the battle to Keogh & Forsyth as well as Davies.
This shows that Mitro is super effective when he’s popping up across the front-line and getting in front of a different defender each time. The battle may well be won by Mitro taking on both James Chester and John Terry separately.
It’s a big day for Aleksandar Mitrovic – not just for his time with the Whites, but also for his career in general. Get it right and some big European clubs could come calling for his services and his place at the forefront of his native Serbia’s attack in Russia will be all but sealed.
It will be a bittersweet moment for fans and the player alike should he fire us back into the Premier League on, what could be, his final appearance in the white shirt. Thanks for the memories Mitro – let’s make the biggest one of all at Wembley!