This would have been the biggest game of the season for both teams, even without the extra twist that occurred during the international break. Not only is this now a relegation six pointer in November against two clubs with a singular win each all season. It is also the return of Claudio Ranieri.
In what appeared harsh to many, Fulham became the first Premier League side to fire their gun and sack their manager, Jokanovic. This is despite him leading them to the promised land in only May. Their business was swift and they quickly had his replacement lined up in a real coup for the club.
The hired Italian certainly has history with this league, and is a legend in many people’s eyes. After a successful spell with Chelsea in the early 2000’s, he took over Leicester City for the 2015/16 season with them relegations favourites. We will all know what happened next, with the 5000-1 outsiders performing the greatest miracle in team sporting history by lifting the title at the end of the season.
Fans of the Whites will be dreaming he makes a similar impact on this squad, but know they must be realistic. Ranieri expressed this too, asking them to try and “not think about the miracle” and that it was a “bonus and fairytale”. Instead he reminded fans of the job he did at Parma, guiding them from the relegation zone to the safety of 12th when he took over in February 2007.
He went on to speak about a subject everyone knows is the core issue at the club- balancing the natural attacking ability of the squad with defensive stability. “We have quality to stay up, but need this with fighting spirit” said the boss. Famous for his unique phrases, he spoke with passion about the need for the team to be “like pirates with an anchor” when not in possession.
Looking ahead to Saturday, Southampton are in deep trouble of their own. Unable to buy a win, Mark Hughes appears to be on borrowed time himself. This game could be his last if another defeat occurs, with their biggest issue the lack of goals up front. Only Danny Ings appears to be able to find the net, with Gabbiadini, Austin and Long all guilty of missing regularly as well as a complete lack of goal threat from midfield.
The day seems perfectly lined up for the typical new manager bounce to kick in and a win for the Cottagers. If this actually occurs remains to be seen, but it is certainly a game that cannot be missed.
Predicted Line Up: Rico, Fosu-Mensah, Chambers, Mawson, Le Marchand, Zambo Anguissa, Cairney, Seri, Sessegnon, Mitrovic, Schurrle
Predicted Score: 3-0