Jack Stroudley previews our trip down the road to Brentford on Monday night.
We’re starting to come into the business end of the season, and while we currently sit in sixth, a few teams below us have a good chunk of games in hand with the opportunity to leapfrog us into those European places. That mixed with Wednesday’s infuriating FA Cup draw away to Manchester United leaves Fulham needing to keep up league momentum if we want to stay in the fight.
On Monday we travel to fellow European outsiders and local rivals Brentford, who will want to right their perceived wrongs following Mitrovic’s later winner in August. With Palhinha suspended and points pivotal to our European ambitions, how do Fulham do the double over the Bees?
Brentford are absolutely flying at the moment and haven’t lost a league game since the World Cup restart, including results against Liverpool, Tottenham and Arsenal. The Bees will have a fully fit squad to choose from on Monday night and given the additional four days of rest their squad have had over Fulham, it shapes up to be an incredibly difficult game.
The obvious talking point is Ivan Toney who pleaded guilty to some of his 200+ betting charges this week. That being said, he’s still eligible to play and you’d imagine that Thomas Frank will want his key man to be involved for as long as possible. While we are aware of the quality Brentford have, they are no stranger to dropping points at home in the league with Crystal Palace, Wolves and Everton all forcing them into draws over the course of this season.
How do we prepare?
In terms of our starting line-up, the loss of Joao Palhinha cannot be underestimated. His tackling, pressing and ability to bring the ball forward is a huge miss and a gap that despite investing in January we may struggle to plug. Here is how I would line up.
In midfield, it seems obvious that the two will be Harrison Reed and new signing Sasa Lukic. Lukic has fitted in well at Fulham so far and while I’m not fully confident in him starting without Palhinha just yet, we are left with no choice on Monday night. The big debate over Manor Solomon rumbles on with four goals in his last four appearances.
While there is certainly an argument that Solomon is a better impact sub than De Cordova-Reid, I think that Solomon has to start now, his tricky feet and eye for goal is a must in this crucial match. As well as this, De Cordova-Reid could provide cover off the bench in midfield if we picked up an injury as without Palhinha and Cairney we are looking very light in that area of the pitch.
The final verdict
This’ll be a tough one, two sides at the right end of the table looking to get one up on each other in a derby that has all the makings of a classic. I think it’ll be an energetic affair with both sides looking to attack from the off. Despite all of this, the loss of Palhinha will be huge and sadly I think this could be the difference and give Brentford a narrow win.