Fulham vs Crystal Palace
Venue: Craven Cottage
Referee: Mike Dean
Ambitious, newly promoted Fulham will welcome Crystal Palace to Craven Cottage on the first day of the new Premier League season, with both clubs hoping to get off to a good start and avoid early fears of relegation.
After winning the Championship play-off final against Aston Villa back in May, Fulham have done anything but rest on their laurels in preparation for the new season back in the top English league.
In almost every position on the Fulham team-sheet the evidence of widespread buying is there to see – they have a new goalkeeper between the posts in Fabri, potentially have a brand new central defensive partnership in Alfie Mawson and Calum Chambers, and their front three is significantly bolstered by the return of Alexsander Mitrovic and the relative coup of André Schürrle from Borussia Dortmund.
However, the most eye-catching signing of all is undoubtedly the midfield addition of Jean Michaël Seri, a player who for years has been linked with the top clubs in Europe, including a transfer to Barcelona last summer that fell through in the last moments of negotiations. He, like Fulham as a whole, are one to keep a firm eye on as the season progresses.
Although Crystal Palace have had a comparatively frustrating transfer window, their eye for a major coup is also evident in their excellent acquisition of former Schalke wonder-kid Maximilian Meyer was well known as one of Schalke’s most highly rated and exciting prospects, an exciting and unpredictable attacking midfielder whose career has been tarnished somewhat by his falling out with the German club’s hierarchy.
This marquee signing stands out for Palace in what has been an otherwise disappointing window so far, with Cheikhou Kouyaté and Jordan Ayew from West Ham and Swansea respectively the only other arrivals at Selhurst Park.
Of course, Palace may regard the likely coup of keeping Wilfried Zaha for another season as the most important ‘business’ of the summer, but there is an uncertainty about the club’s potential this term, with the club needing to immediately carry the momentum of the excellent form of last season’s closing weeks in order to banish fears of relegation early this time around.
This will be a fascinating test for not only this exciting, new-look Fulham side but also for Crystal Palace, whose settled defence has remained the same from last season and have made perhaps more subtle, but maybe equally exciting signings to their midfield and attack as well. All eyes will be on Maximilian Meyer and Jean Michaël Seri but don’t be surprised if it is the old favourites, such as the exhilarating Wilfried Zaha, who steal the headlines once again.
Although straight after a transfer window it is difficult to predict which signings will play where, or if indeed they will play at all, Alfie Mawson can probably be ruled out for the first week at least as he continues to recover from a surgery he undertook when involved at Swansea.
Apart from that and perhaps also Calum Chambers, who may need easing into the squad having arrived only recently, Fulham got their business done early and should have additions such as Seri, Schürrle and Mitrovic begin their careers for the club immediately on Saturday.
Crystal Palace may show a more immediately familiar look to their starting line-up with the only instant addition possibly being Meyer playing on the left instead of Jeffrey Schlupp in what appears to be Roy Hodgson’s favoured 4-4-2 formation.
It will be interesting to see if they adapt this for Meyer’s arrival however; his expertise and experience in playing behind the striker could lead to a change to a formation that accommodates that, as well as accommodating any potential new signings that come in as well.
Predicted Starting XI’s:
Fulham (4-3-3) – Fabri, Christie, Ream, Le Marchand, Sessegnon, Seri, McDonald, Cairney, Kamara, Schürrle, Mitrovic.
Crystal Palace (4-4-2) – Guaita, Wan-Bissaka, Sakho, Tomkins, Van Aanholt, Meyer, Milivojevic, McArthur, Townsend, Zaha, Benteke.
Score Prediction: Fulham 2 – Crystal Palace 0
Fulham’s terrific signings across the entirety of their team (with more to come rumoured at the time of writing) and with the home support turning up for their triumphant return to the Premier League, they should have just too much for a Crystal Palace side who, however solid they have been for the entirety of Hodgson’s reign, have not matched their opponents in regards to transfers made.
Neither team should worry too much about the prospect of relegation but there will be indications in this game as to whether safety is the simple goal for both of these teams or whether one of them is aiming for a more impressive and more impressive league finish.