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Premier League

  • 13 August 2011
  • • 15:00
  • • Craven Cottage, London
  • Referee: L. Mason
  • • Attendance: 25700
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Fulham - Aston Villa Preview: Martin Jol and Alex McLeish both target winning start for new clubs

Former Spurs manager hopes for successful return to the Premier League with the Cottagers, while the Scottish boss must silence angry fans with positive start to season


PROBABLE LINEUPS
FULHAM

Schwarzer
Baird, A. Hughes, Hangeland, J. Riise
Duff, Murphy, Etuhu, Dempsey
Dembele, Zamora
ASTON VILLA
 
Given
Young, Dunne, Collins, Warnock
Albrighton, Petrov, Bannan, N'Zogbia
Heskey, Bent
Summer signing John Arne Riise will likely be the only new face in an otherwise settled Fulham starting XI, as new boss Martin Jol looks to capitalise on the match sharpness borne out of his side’s involvement in Europa League qualifying to make a fast start to the season.

Target man Bobby Zamora, fit again after missing five months of last season with a broken leg, will be the focal point of the attack as he looks to hold the ball up in the final third and allow the likes of Moussa Dembele, Damien Duff and Clint Dempsey to exert influence on proceedings.

New boss Alex McLeish will be forced to reshape the Villa midfield after the high profile departures of Ashley Young and Stewart Downing this summer and the absence of Jean Makoun and Stephen Ireland through injury.

Scotland international Barry Bannan will most probably deputise in the centre alongside captain Stilian Petrov, while Marc Albrighton and new signing Charles N’Zogbia will likely switch flanks throughout in a bid to provide the service for Emile Heskey and key man Darren Bent.
 

DID YOU KNOW?

  • Both managers will be overseeing their first Premier League matches in charge of their new teams on Saturday.
  • N’Zogbia and Given of Aston Villa and Riise (pictured right) of Fulham are set to make their Premier League debuts for their new clubs.
  • Fulham and Aston Villa were separated by just one league position – Fulham in 8th, Aston Villa in 9th – and just one point in last season’s final Premier League table.
  • Both meetings between these two sides last season ended as draws.
  • Fulham have never lost at Craven Cottage on the opening day of a Premier League season.
  • Despite clocking up 322 matches between them in English football since 2004, Jol and McLeish have never actually faced each other in management. Jol was sacked from Tottenham Hotspur in October 2007, one month before McLeish took charge at Birmingham City.
  • This is the first time Fulham have kicked off a Premier League campaign at Craven Cottage since the 2005/06 season, when they drew 0-0 at home to Birmingham City.
  • Aston Villa striker Bent will fancy his chances of scoring on Saturday – he has found the net on the opening day in four of the last six Premier League seasons.
  • Fulham midfielder Steve Sidwell could be in line to face former club Aston Villa.
  • For Fulham’s Andrew Johnson and Stephen Kelly, an opening day victory over Aston Villa might be even sweeter than usual as both are former Birmingham City players.

Players to watch

B. Zamora

Position: Attacker

Games: 0

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Having missed a sizeable chunk of the last campaign through injury, the forward will be looking to lay the foundations of a happier season this time around with a good performance on Saturday.

Big, strong in the air, surprisingly quick and dangerous with either foot, the 30-year-old must be considered one of the Premier League’s most improved players over the past three seasons and, when on form, is a handful for any defence.

D. Bent

Position: Attacker

Games: 0

  • 0
  • 0
  • 0
He may have had his critics over the years, but no-one has ever questioned his ability to find the net regularly against the best defences in the country, and his contribution was absolutely crucial in steering Villa clear of a possible relegation scrap last term.

Bent is not as polished as many of the Premier League’s more distinguished frontmen, but when it comes to finding and exploiting space in the opposition’s penalty area, there are few better. Fulham’s defence will have to be at their best to keep him quiet.

Editor's Prediction

Fulham should be the sharper of the two sides after their pre-season Europa League exploits, and this should be reflected in the opening exchanges on Saturday. The intelligent forward play of Zamora will cause problems, but expect the dangerous movement of Bent to help Villa earn a point.

Last Five Matches

Head To Head

Fulham

Aston Villa

Wins
4
1
0
Wins

Betting & Predictions

Reader's Predictions

Fulham FC FUL
Fulham FC Fulham
Draw
Aston Villa FC AST
Aston Villa FC Aston Villa
42%
28%
30%

Top 3 Predictions

Fulham FC FUL
1 - 1
Aston Villa FC AST
Fulham FC FUL
2 - 1
Aston Villa FC AST
Fulham FC FUL
1 - 2
Aston Villa FC AST

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