Jack Stroudley looks ahead to the first London derby of the season.
While it wasn’t necessarily a routine victory, Fulham’s Premier League campaign got underway in the best way possible last week dispatching Everton 1-0. It certainly wasn’t a performance to remember but it could turn out to be three vital points early in the season. Our next three league fixtures consist of Brentford, Arsenal and Manchester City – all very tough opponents.
The first of those come on Saturday as we welcome the Bees for our opener at Craven Cottage. The situation around Mitrovic isn’t any clearer and the addition of Traore could stir things up, so how do Fulham make it two wins in a row?
Brentford’s campaign kicked off at home where they welcomed Tottenham Hotspur with the game ending 2-2. The Bees did suffer two injuries during the game, with both Ben Mee and Mathias Jensen coming off injured. It looks like Mee is going to be fit for Saturday’s game but the latter may be out. Brentford have also said goobye to David Raya this week and of course Ivan Toney won’t be available for the game.
Looking at Brentford’s average positions against Spurs, they sat back quite a bit and only had 30% possession. Despite this, they were clinical in their chances and Mbuemo and Wissa began to show that they can be the main men for this Toney-less Brentford side. Despite this, I don’t think we’ll see Brentford sit back against Fulham on Saturday.
Coming up against an attacking Ange Postecoglou, Brentford were always going to struggle to maintain possession for large parts of the game. I think Thomas Frank will set the Bees up to press on Saturday to make for a very entertaining fixture.
How do we prepare?
Marco Silva said in his press conference that Palhinha will be involved with in the squad, here’s how I’d line-up this weekend.
Three changes for me from the Everton game with Andreas Pereira, Joao Palhinha and Calvin Bassey coming in for Tom Cairney, Sasa Lukuc and Tim Ream. Pereira was crucial in the build-up for Fulham’s goal after coming off the bench last week and I feel with him in the side we are a much better team. His ability to press as well as his ability from set-pieces could be crucial on Saturday.
Marco Silva has stated that Joao Palhinha will be in the squad and will also be involved. For me, he has to start, Lukic had a good game against Everton but we are infinitely better with Palhinha in the side. Lukic is going to have a good season and him being able to cover both Palhinha and Reed off the bench is only going to benefit us.
Calvin Bassey was fantastic during Fulham’s pre-season fixture against Hoffenheim so to see Tim Ream replace him last weekend was a bit of a shock. It wasn’t Ream’s finest game with sloppy defending which would’ve cost us if it wasn’t for Bernd Leno. I’d like to see Bassey start instead.
While Willian was poor in the first half and De Cordova-Reid did grab Fulham’s winner, I wouldn’t necessarily change so quickly here. Willian’s ability on the ball is something that Fulham are going to need to break down this Brentford defence and with our options in midfield being light at the moment, having De Cordova-Reid on the bench to come on either on the wing or in midfield feels like a smart thing to do.
Jimenez gets another start for me. Silva stated in his press conference Mitro injured his ankle (again) during the game at Goodison Park. Whether we will see him in a Fulham shirt again is another question but Jimenez will get the nod on Saturday with Vinicius on the bench.
The final verdict
As always, I think this game is going to be entertaining. Both sides absolutely up for it and desperate for bragging rights. Fulham need to perform better than we did last week, if not I think we could be in trouble. That being said, bringing in Pereira, Palhinha and Bassey should add needed quality in both boxes and I think we’re going to win… narrowly.