Fulham travel to Villa Park on Saturday having won four out of their last seven games in the Barclays Premier League, and progressed through to the fifth round of the FA Cup with an emphatic 4-0 win over Tottenham this time last week; things are looking up for Mark Hughes’s side. However Villa have also put a few results together of late and with the addition of Darren Bent to their striking repertoire will look to distance themselves from an increasingly tight relegation battle.
The home side also have a bit of a hex over the Cottagers; Fulham have never beaten Aston Villa on the road in the Premiership in nine attempts.
Fulham’s away record both this season and last, not just at Villa Park, is abysmal – the London club have only won one of their last thirty league games on the road – courtesy of a victory at the Brittania stadium against Stoke in December. Mark Hughes men will realise that the game on Saturday is an important one as both they, and the home side, are in danger of being sucked into a battle for Premier League survival. Fulham sit in 12th position before kick-off, just five points above West Ham in the relegation zone, whilst Villa are down in 14th, one point further back from the visitors.
Fulham will look to build on their 1-0 victory over Newcastle on Wednesday night, but will have to do so without the services of Bobby Zamora, who is still recovering from a broken leg and Swiss defender Phillipe Senderos who has an Achilles problem.
January loan signing Eidur Gudjohnsen is available for selection and should give the guests a bit of extra guile and class either as a frontman or attacking midfielder. Steve Sidwell will relish the chance to take on his former club, where he spent an unhappy and generally frustrating period.
The home side lost to League leaders Manchester United at Old Trafford in midweek but will be looking to re-find the form they showed in victories against Blackburn, Wigan and Manchester City in their three previous matches. They will have to do so without Luke Young and youngster Fabian Delph, who both are sidelined with knee injuries, but beyond this Villa have few injury worries. Gerard Houiller has a number of options up front, including new signing Darren Bent and Gabriel Agbonlahor, who has an excellent scoring record against Fulham. Richard Dunne is set to make his 400th career start at centre back if selected.
Both Villa and Fulham are in considerably better positions than they found themselves in early January, when both spent time in the bottom three. I wouldn’t go as far to say that this is a six-pointer but a win for either side can steer the victor to mid table security, whilst the defeated side are in danger of being dragged back into a relegation dogfight. Due to Fulham’s poor record away from Craven Cottage, Villa will be deemed as the favourite and a win should see the home faithful rescinding some of their scepticism for manager Gerard Houiller.
Published – http://www.fastlinesports.com/?p=4570