Jack Stroudley assesses our midweek trip to Merseyside as Fulham take on Liverpool.
Despite an admirable performance against the current Premier League champions, Fulham fell to a narrow defeat at the hands of Manchester City at the weekend keeping themselves firmly in the top half (despite the likes of Crystal Palace and Bournemouth closing the gap). With the games coming thick and fast, we now head to Merseyside in midweek and look to make it consecutive wins at Anfield for the first time in history. Despite a disappointing turn in form, the trip to Liverpool provides Fulham with a good opportunity to maintain the performance level from last weekend. But how do we go about it?
Following a disappointing trip to the Etihad last month, Liverpool are unbeaten in their last six league fixtures, including four consecutive wins. Jurgen Klopp’s side go into the game with no new injury concerns and looking to keep their slim chances of the top four alive. Liverpool’s main threats will be in attack with a fluid front three which can cause any side in the world problems with 15 goals from their last 4 games.
Despite a dominant attack, Liverpool’s problems in midfield and defence have been apparent throughout the course of the season with the midfield three on the weekend being Curtis Jones, Fabinho and (of course) Harvey Elliott. Van Dijk has also been hot and cold throughout the season and for all the attacking qualities Trent Alexander-Arnold provides, his defensive limitations continue to be mentioned.
How do we prepare?
Fulham will be without some key names at Anfield with Tim Ream and Andreas Pereira joining Willian on the injury table along with the suspended Aleksandar Mitrovic. As mentioned above, Liverpool’s midfield is a weak point and an area that can be exploited. So how do Fulham do that?
I’d make three changes to the side that lost narrowly to Manchester City. The first two are due to injury with Issa Diop coming in for Tim Ream and slotting into that left centre-half role at Anfield and more than likely the remainder of the season. Andreas Pereira is also out for the remainder of the season, which gives Tom Cairney a chance in the starting line-up.
Cairney has been brilliant off the bench this season and when replacing Pereira on Sunday, he was exceptional and deserves a chance to start the game. I imagine that we will adapt slightly as Cairney doesn’t have the pressing abilities of Pereira and therefore will sit deeper alongside Reed and Palhinha and look to pick out the likes of Harry Wilson and Bobby De Cordova-Reid.
Cairney will more than likely not last a full 90 minutes and as a result we could see Solomon come on to replace him and one of Reid or Wilson then drop into a role we’ve seen Pereira play for the whole of the season.
The final change is the reintroduction of Dan James for Carlos Vinicius. This feels harsh on Vinicius, who more than held his own against Manchester City, but this feels like a different game. Despite playing away at Liverpool, I feel we will have a fair share of the ball and having Dan James as the focal point allows us to hit on the counter and his pace can cause the Liverpool defence problems that Vinicius wouldn’t be able to.
The final verdict
I can’t believe I’m saying this but I am quietly confident going into this one. Liverpool are phenomenal in attack and will create a lot of chances meaning that Bernd Leno will need to produce a performance we have become accustomed to over the course of the season. I also feel that we will create chances of our own, it’s just down to (what feels like) a second string attack to be clinical in those moments and cause Liverpool problems. I feel that Liverpool will just win, but if Fulham got a result I really wouldn’t be shocked. Liverpool 2-1 Fulham.