The Lilywhites resume their Premier League campaign this weekend with another all London clash at Craven Cottage. The late afternoon kick off starts a run of promising fixtures over the festive period where it is expected the club can pick up enough points to see them move out of the relegation zone.
Last weekend was full of more disappointment, even if it wasn’t too surprising. Playing away at Old Trafford is always an uphill battle, but with Man United unable to beat Crystal Palace or Southampton in recent matches their was cautious optimism an upset or at least a fighting performance could be on the cards.
However, what occurred in the first 45 minutes was nothing short of embarrassing. Ranieri described it as “lambs against wolves” as the teams defensive vulnerability was on show for all to see. Still the only club without a clean sheet this season, the back line was carved open time and time again to allow Young, Mata and Lukaku to put a team relatively low on confidence into an unassailable lead.
“In the first half we were shy, we were waiting. Why were we waiting? The first half was a warm-up” said Ranieri after the game.
This opening period was enough for him to replace two of his most influential players this season Mitrovic and Cairney, with Kamara and Vietto. This change was vindicated by the second half performance, with Kamara winning and scoring a penalty himself to give hope of an improbable comeback. But the sending off of Zambo Anguissa just minutes later extinguished any remaining hope.
Looking forward to the upcoming game, a positive result is imperative with the teams improving home form. Although West Ham are on a recent purple patch of form with three wins in a row, teams in the bottom half on the league don’t tend to win four games on the bounce. The injury of star man Arnautovic will relive some of the pressure on the Whites backline, but they must be wary of the ever improving Felipe Anderson and recent fine form of Hernandez.
A key player for Fulham may be Sessegnon, as if he puts in a performance similar to the one against Southampton, his trickery and pace may be too much for an ageing Zabaleta to handle.
Predicted Line Up: Rico, Christie, Mawson, Odoi, Bryan, Chambers, Seri, Cairney, Sessegnon, Mitrovic, Kamara
Predicter Score: 2-2