Kick-Off: Wednesday, March 04, 20:00 (local time). Craven Cottage, London.
Manchester United’s League Cup final victory over Tottenham Hotspur was good news for Fulham and the clubs around them.
The Red Devils’ Wembley triumph opened up an additional league-based Europa League spot for next season, and if United, Chelsea, Arsenal or Everton win the FA Cup – seventh place will be rewarded with qualification to the continental stage.
That spot is well within Fulham’s reach. West Ham United currently occupy the position, two points clear of Roy Hodgson’s men, who have a game in hand.
And while there is a lot of competition for that place, it would be foolish not to look at the Cottagers as realistic challengers after a season that has seen massive improvements on last year’s dramatic relegation scrap.
At home they are as good as ever, formidable opposition who have lost just once in front of their own fans in 12 matches. Away, they still don’t win – but they are now tough to beat, as Arsenal found out to their cost last Saturday.
Even if Hodgson’s side go on a slump between now and the end of the season, it will still have been a successful campaign, but while the results are coming in the league and they remain in the FA Cup, the chance of a famous season remains.
There is always one team who get dragged down from above and sucked right into the relegation dogfight. This season, that team is Hull City.
Phil Brown’s side made a fairytale start to their Premier League lives, sitting in the lofty heights of the top six for the first half of the season after a number of famous wins away to the likes of Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur.
But a happy ending may not be in sight after a run of eleven games without a league win has left them just three points clear of the drop-zone and fully involved in the fight to stay up.
The Tigers, who, like Fulham, are FA Cup quarter-finalists, have to start picking up results soon to prevent them from continuing to sink down the congested bottom half of the table.
On the plus side, they know that a couple of wins can get them right back out of trouble again, and they do have some winnable fixtures coming up.
While the defeats keep on coming, though, it is hard for the Hull faithful to remain optimistic. Indeed, in the opinion of many, a return to the Championship is likely to be on the cards.
This represents a difficult away fixture and anything they can get from this game will be considered a massive bonus to halt the current downward spiral.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Fulham – Mark Schwarzer
Mark Schwarzer had a bad game against Manchester United recently, but he has come back strongly since then – shutting out Arsenal at the weekend. Fulham are not a free-scoring side, so a well-drilled defensive unit and a reliable goalkeeper are crucial to their success.
Hull – Geovanni
Geovanni, like Hull, made a fantastic start to the Premier League season, but he is now starting to fall off the pace when his side need him most. Last week, his substitution against Blackburn Rovers split the club’s fans and his manager criticised him in the media, stating that nobody is bigger than the club. The perfect answer to his critics would be to put in an impressive performance here.
Feb 28 Arsenal 0-0 Fulham (Premier League)
Feb 24 Fulham 2-1 Swansea (FA Cup)
Feb 22 Fulham 2-0 West Bromwich Albion (Premier League)
Feb 18 Manchester United 3-0 Fulham (Premier League)
Feb 14 Swansea 1-1 Fulham (FA Cup)
Mar 01 Hull 1-2 Blackburn Rovers (Premier League)
Feb 26 Hull 2-1 Sheffield United (FA Cup)
Feb 23 Hull 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur (Premier League)
Feb 14 Sheffield United 1-1 Hull (FA Cup)
Feb 07 Chelsea 0-0 Hull (Premier League)
Team news to follow.
Previous XI (0-0 – Away V Arsenal): Schwarzer, Baird, Hangeland, Hughes, Konchesky, Davies, Murphy, Etuhu, Dempsey, Johnson, Zamora.
Team news to follow.
Previous XI (1-2 Home V Blackburn Rovers): Duke, Doyle, Turner, Zayatte, Dawson, Mendy, Ashbee, Marney, Kilbane, Geovanni, Garcia.
Fulham have had a tremendous campaign so far and if they finish strongly there is a chance they will make next season’s Europa League.
Hull are on a dire run of form and don’t look like winning any time soon, especially away from home to one of the Premier League’s form sides.
I don’t foresee any major problems for Roy Hodgson’s men in this one – home win.
Fulham 2-0 Hull City
Chris Myson, Goal.com