Manchester City vs Fulham
K/O: 15:00 hours
Venue: The Etihad Stadium
Referee: Stuart Attwell
Manchester City will not be expecting much resistance this Saturday, with the Champions facing a newly-promoted Fulham side who are still adjusting to life in the Premier League.
Much has been made of the slight stumble of Manchester City away at Wolverhampton Wanderers this season, where the Citizens went and registered only a surprising 1-1 draw – couple this with Liverpool’s perfect start, recording four wins from four and there is already talk of Manchester City struggling to reclaim their title. It would be wise to be cautious when making any assumptions about the credibility of contenders to City’s crown; three wins and a draw was their record after four games last season as well, a campaign where they amassed 100 points. Therefore it is impossible to know whether anything will change in the competitiveness of the league this time around.
City’s last two home games have both been victories, with the hard-fought win against Newcastle United showing that City can grit out a result, as opposed to their previous home game that yielded a cruising 6-1 victory over Huddersfield Town. Fulham have shown signs of settling into the league in recent weeks but their defensive record remains suspect. Despite getting four points from their last two games, they’ve conceded four goals in those two as well, raising concerns about their new defensive recruits and how to line-up at the back going forward.
Fulham sit 13th in the table as it stands, with one win, a draw and two losses in their first four games. It hasn’t been a disastrous start at all in their return to the Premier League but problems have most definitely arisen, particularly at the back which will be seen as a major concern if the trend for sloppy mistakes continues.
In their last outing Fulham drew 2-2 away at Brighton, a result that on paper does not tell the full story of Fulham’s frustration. The Cottagers went 2-0 ahead in the second half only to concede two Glenn Murray goals to throw away precious points. The second goal, a penalty, was given away by an inexplicable hand-ball by Aleksander Mitrovic, who used his arm to bring down a high ball in the penalty area. The Serbian striker, who is on excellent goal-scoring form, still has a maverick edge to his overall play and Fulham will hope he can continue to make the headlines for all the right reasons.
Despite injuries to key players in Kevin De Bruyne and defensive cover Danilo and Claudio Bravo, Manchester City have looked spoiled for depth in the first four weeks of the new season. Summer signing Riyad Mahrez has barely had time to show why his new club paid 60 million pounds for him, while young superstar of last season, Leroy Sane, has been left out of the match squad on more than one occasion. Manchester City can rotate like nobody else in the Premier League, with quality replacements available for every player, which will undoubtedly cause Fulham, and every other team in the league, problems in regards to preparation.
Fulham were given a much-needed defensive boost last week with the debut of Alfie Mawson, out injured since his transfer from Swansea, playing in the centre of defence alongside Denis Odoi. It will be touch and go as to whether key midfielder Tom Cairney will be fit enough to start against Manchester City, having picked up an ankle injury in their 4-2 win against Burnley. For a trip to the champions, it would seem unwise to risk him too early.
Predicted Starting XI’s:
Manchester City: Ederson; Mendy, Kompany, Laporte, Walker; Fernandinho, D. Silva, B. Silva, Sterling,;Jesus, Agüero
Fulham: Bettinelli; Bryan, Mawson, Le Marchand, Fosu-Mensah; Seri, McDonald, Anguissa, Schürrle; Vietto, Mitrovic
Score Prediction – Manchester City 4 Fulham 0
Although Fulham’s last two results have shown plenty of promise, Saturday’s visit to the Etihad is likely to be the hardest game they face all season. Perhaps Fulham would be more fancied to cause problems to the champions elect if they had exhibited any degree of defensive nous this season but even in their best result to date, their 4-2 victory over Burnley, they were poor defensively, and for that reason there should be very little doubt as to the identity of the winner here.