Fulham vs West Ham United
Venue: Craven Cottage
Referee: Mike Dean
In this weekend’s game against West Ham United, Fulham will be desperate to start picking up points and climb up the table, as Claudio Ranieri attempts to mastermind the Cottagers escape from the relegation zone, who are now winless in three despite a debut victory for the Italian.
Fulham are coming into the game following a 4-1 defeat to Manchester United where they were 3-0 down by half-time. Their opponents, in the form of a free-scoring West Ham side, have scored three goals in each of their last three games; the first time since December 2016 that they have won three games back to back.
It has certainly been a brilliant recovery from what was a dire start to the season. West Ham manager, Manuel Pellegrini, will be wanting to see the Hammers form continue as they come up against the bottom side of the league. Pellegrini will be demanding his players not to relax as they edge nearer to pushing themselves into the top half of the league for the first time this season.
Claudio Ranieri will be without holding midfielder Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa who picked up a red card against Manchester United last weekend. Alternatively, Ranieri could now call Stefan Johansen back into the starting line-up, but the Norwegian has only started four games this season. The out-of-favour midfielder will be looking to seize his chance to get himself back in the side under the new boss.
The major change Ranieri will want to see from his team is a more solid defensive showing. Fulham have conceded 40 goals this season, which has seen their centre-back pairing chopped and changed. Due to their lack of consistency at the back, they have certainly seemed to struggle. It could be time to stick with the pairing of Alfie Mawson and Denis Odoi, in order to build a sense of consistency at the back.
Manuel Pellegrini will still be without key players Marko Arnautovic and Manuel Lanzini as they continue to recover from injury. This should not trouble Pellegrini too much, as some players have stepped up in their absences. Lucas Perez and Javier Hernandez have scored five goals between in them in the last three games. The two forwards have proven that Arnautovic is not the only deadly striker West Ham have at their disposal.
Felipe Anderson will also be hoping to score his next goal for the Hammers, as the Brazilian is currently on a run of five goals in his last six games, including a spectacular curling effort against Crystal Palace last weekend. Pellegrini will also be boosted by the news that right-back, Pablo Zabaleta, has said the he has no plans for retirement just yet. Speaking to Sky Sports, the Argentine said, “When you are in your 30s you cannot think about long-term, that is the only thing, but I’m not thinking about retirement”. Zabaleta has been enjoying his football this season and held off competition from Ryan Fredericks for the starting berth to stay as first choice for the Hammers.
Predicted Starting XIs
Fulham: (4-2-3-1) Rico, Byran, Odoi, Mawson, Christie, Johansen, Seri, Sessegnon, Cairney, Schurrle, Mitrovic.
West Ham: (4-4-2) Fabianksi, Masuaku, Balbuena, Diop, Zabaleta, Snodgrass, Rice, Noble, Anderson, Hernandez, Perez.
Prediction: Fulham 1 West Ham 2
West Ham simply have to be favourites against a struggling Fulham side. There are several reasons for this, but the most notable is the fact they have the worst defence in the league. West Ham have been free-scoring of late and have scored three goals on five occasions this season. Fulham have one solace ahead of Saturday’s fixture and that is the West Ham defence. West Ham have only kept two clean sheets this season and that could be their Achilles heel. If they are not careful, this could prevent them from pushing into the top half of the league.