Fulham vs Burnley
Venue: Craven Cottage
Referee: David Coote
Both Fulham and Burnley will be hoping to put disappointing starts to the season behind them when they clash at Craven Cottage this Sunday, after neither side have registered a win in their opening two Premier League matches.
Between the two teams it is Fulham who perhaps have more reason to be optimistic for the coming season, despite the disappointing start. Their inexperience of the top-flight was evident in their 2-0 loss to Crystal Palace, although they still created chances; while they occasionally made Tottenham Hotspur sweat down at Wembley where until Harry Kane slotted home in the 77th minute, Fulham had given an extremely good account of themselves.
Sunday’s game really represents a game that Fulham will aim to win however, especially after the well-documented amount of money that the club spent on new players in the summer. There is a feeling, understandably, that Slaviša Jokanović is still finding out what is his best startling eleven with summer signings such as André Schürrle already being rotated in and out of the team. Some signings, such as Alfie Mawson, are still to come into consideration thanks to injury and it will be fascinating to see how Fulham start to gel once everybody is fit and ready to compete.
Alarm bells may already have started to ring for Sean Dyche and Burnley after their surprising loss at home to Watford, a 3-1 defeat that led to early fears about a European hangover for the Clarets. Burnley face Olympiacos in the Europa League on Thursday, away in Greece, and Fulham will be excited at the prospect of facing a potentially fatigued Burnley side.
Sean Dyche’s side have proved a lot of doubters wrong through their years in the Premier League, especially last season with their excellent and well-deserved 7th place finish. With this in mind, any early fears of relegation should probably be dismissed. However, it will undoubtedly be alarming for them to see such early signs of fatigue carrying on from the Europa League and if they have ambitions in the competition this is a problem that could carry into their league form for a few months yet. The European adventure that the smaller clubs occasionally get to experience are special as long as they prove to not complicate the league campaign, and for many in the Burnley fan-base the romanticism associated with the journey may already be waning.
Fulham will still be hoping that their centre-back Tim Ream will be able to come back into at least the match-day squad for Sunday’s encounter, after he was again declared unfit for the match against Tottenham. Alfie Mawson still remains a few weeks away from a return to first team football after his move from Swansea City, with his estimated return date expected to be early September. It will be interesting to see if André Schürrle can regain his place in the side after losing it to Aboubakar Kamara against Tottenham, with the German player being regarded a coup for the club when arriving in the summer.
As for Burnley, they will be without their starlet goalkeeper from last season, Nick Pope, for the foreseeable future after his shoulder injury against Aberdeen in the Europa League. Bringing in Joe Hart to fill that spot in the team from Manchester City was perhaps somewhat surprising after his torrid season on loan at West Ham last season, but the former England international has looked solid enough in Burnley goal, despite conceding three to Watford in their previous fixture. Late defensive signing from Middlesbrough, the highly-rated Ben Gibson, has yet to appear for his new side in the Premier League.
Predicted Starting XI’s:
Fulham (4-3-3) – Fabri; Christie, Ream, Le Marchand, Bryan; Seri, Anguissa, Cairney; Sessegnon, Schürrle, Mitrovic
Burnley (4-4-1-1) – Hart; Lowton, Tarkowski, Mee, Ward;Gudmondsson, Cork, Westwood, Lennon; Hendrick, Wood
Score Prediction – Fulham 2 Burnley 1
Both sides will be targeting this match as a means to return to the winning habit but the context of the match and where and when it will be played seems to only favour Fulham. Burnley have already shown their vulnerability to being affected by their European excursions and Fulham will relish their longer rest period and playing in front of their own fans.
Burnley won’t make it easy for the home side however and will take notes from Crystal Palace’s ruthless win at this ground only two weeks ago as a perfect example of how to face up against this Fulham team. If such a professional win was inflicted on Fulham again at their own ground then questions and worries will surely begin to take shape.