Matthew Aris previews tomorrow’s game as the Whites begin their FA Cup journey.
After three wins on the bounce, Fulham are now in the European spots and fans are beginning to dare to dream of trips to far-flung Europe countries next season. After grinding out another win at the King Power, people are starting to take notice of the high-flying Whites and the free-scoring Mitrovic, who moved to 11 league goals this season with his left footed half-volleyed winner on Tuesday.
However, before the league resumes with a local derby against Chelsea, Fulham first must take on a resurgent Hull side in the FA cup, who are unbeaten in five and are now only six points off the play-offs.
Hull have bounced back after a poor start under former manager Shota Arveladze, but could now have higher aspirations than their initial aims of avoiding relegation. The Georgian manager was replaced by former player Liam Rosenior in November. The Englishman has impressed in his initial period as manager, only losing once in his first eight games. Hull now sit 16th, six points off the play-offs with the feeling of back-to-back wins against Wigan and Birmingham spreading some buoyance around the KCOM.
Rosenior has used a 4-2-3-1 in all his games so far and it has proved to have provided a lot more stability and defensive shape to City, with only three goals being conceded in their last five games. Hull also prefer to build up slowly and play out from the back, which allows them to dominate and control games with some of their more technical players, such as former Fulham player Jean Michael Seri, able to spread and recycle the ball in the midfield.
The Hull attack is spearheaded by Oscar Estupinan, who joined on a free from Vitoria in the summer. The Colombian has shown his goalscoring prowess in the second tier with 11 goals so far, making him the third highest scorer in the Championship this term. The poacher makes himself a nuisance for defenders with high intensity pressing and makes clever peeling runs off the back line.
How do we prepare?
Marco Silva has a fully fit squad to choose from, but will most likely rotate the majority of the side for the cup with the game, providing some rare minutes for some of the more fringe players. This will mean a start for cup keeper Marek Rodak and other bench players such as Shane Duffy, Kevin Mbabu and Harry Wilson. Youngster Luke Harris should get to start his first FA cup game although, I think it will be too early to see Manor Solomon start.
The game should also be able to provide some minutes for players we should look to offload in January, such as Josh Onomah and Nathaniel Chalobah. This should also provide a rest for defensive rock Joao Palhinha for next Thursday.
Aleksandar Mitrovic is suspended for the game against Chelsea next week, although I don’t think that he’ll be risked here and will instead be rested for the game against Newcastle. This will make sure he’s in tip-top shape to continue his rich vein of form this season. Mitrovic has never scored in an FA cup game, and I don’t think this will be the week he breaks he duck, with Carlos Vinicius likely to be preferred up front.
Even with a weakened line-up, we should look to dominate the ball and force Hull back into their own half. The Tigers have been susceptible to set pieces in recent weeks, which should play into our hands if we use them well. The KCOM has become a lot louder since the Whites last journeyed there so we should be proactive in preventing another cup disaster this season and be sure to quash any doubts early.
The game on Saturday should be at interesting one for the travelling fans, with the chance to serenade Seri once more and the see some different players perform. While we should have too much quality for the Tigers, we must be wary of their bite and should look to burst out the traps and put some early daylight between us.